Updated 7:30 p.m.:
GREENSBORO — Guilford County Schools has pushed back the start of workouts for fall sports at its high schools once again, this time to "at least" Aug. 3.
The announcement was sent to principals about 6:15 p.m. today and was sent to the media at 6:20.
"The district remains committed to our students and understands many are eager to resume participation in our programs, but is also sensitive to the concerns some may have about returning," the email read. "GCS will continue to monitor trends in our state and region regarding the spread of COVID-19 and will only allow our activities to resume when it is safe to do so."
Before the evening announcement, Guilford County Schools had been the largest district in the state that had not pushed back the start of fall athletics workouts for its high schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cumberland County Schools, Wake County Schools and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools all announced earlier in the week that they would not resume athletics workouts Monday in light of the N.C. High School Athletic Association's decision to postpone the start of official practices until at least Sept. 1. Guilford County Schools, meanwhile, was moving ahead with plans to resume workouts on a limited basis as of 9:40 a.m. today. At that time, Leigh Hebbard, the district's athletics director, wrote in an email that, "If anything changes regarding workouts, we will make an announcement."
With other districts postponing the start of workouts, students and parents in Guilford County were left wondering what GCS would do and asking officials at individual high schools what they knew. Most had no more information than the students and parents, and athletics directors were mowing fields and posting signs explaining safety protocols as if workouts were moving ahead Monday.
They finally received word this evening that workouts were being postponed again.
Ethan Albright, Grimsley’s athletics director, said he and his GCS colleagues felt they were as ready as they could be to resume workouts safely Monday.
“At Grimsley, we’ve been working hard over the past six to eight weeks to have a plan in place, and we are ready,” Albright said. “I think we can get kids out on the field and keep it as safe as we possibly can, and I think the kids would be extremely excited to see each other.”
Albright added that “between the mental health benefits and the physical benefits of working out together, there’s a lot of positives to getting back out there.”
As a father of two Grimsley athletes, sons Lawson and Nolan, Albright knows safety is the priority in any plan to return to workouts and competition. But he’s also seen firsthand how much of an impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on his sons’ spirits.
“They’re probably as disappointed as I’ve seen them,” said the Grimsley alumnus and former NFL player. “As a parent, I’m starting to struggle watching their behavior change through all this, and I don’t think I’m the only parent watching behavior change in their kids. Getting them back to being part of a team, giving them an outlet will help.”
The NCHSAA typically allows its member schools to begin official practices Aug. 1, and competition was scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 17 with most football openers set for Aug. 21. Those dates are no longer possible, but no decision has been announced by the association on whether fall sports will be canceled or pushed back until later in the school year.
Private schools that are members of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association also cannot hold practices at this time, but they are expected to vote Monday afternoon on a proposal to set dates for the start of official workouts and competition.
Will GCS high schools be able to resume workouts Aug. 3?
“Hopefully, people will do what it takes,” Albright said. “If it takes wearing a mask and washing hands and keeping your distance from people … that seems to work.”