GREENSBORO — A group of athletes and parents is asking Guilford County Schools to hear their voices and find a way to have high school sports and extracurricular activities this fall in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They will hold a “peaceful rally” Wednesday morning at the school district’s central office, and they want as many students and parents as possible to attend — wearing masks and school colors and maintaining social distancing, of course.
“If you want to play, if the game really means something to you, you should be out there,” one of the rally’s organizers, Grimsley football player Sincere Burnette, said.
The HSXtra.com All-Area linebacker said the idea for the rally came when he saw posts on social media about a rally of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools athletes that was organized by Myers Park football players Tahj El and K’Daron Redfearn. The rally at the GCS offices is timed to coincide with the rally in Charlotte.
“When you see people like that who are in the same situation as you and you see how they’re going about it, we need to support them and join them,” Burnette said. “We can make a bigger team, like I said in my tweet, ‘the ULTIMATE TEAM,’ and try to get other counties in the state to change their mind.”
A Grimsley parent, Valarie Tutuh, said the call for a rally was “a grassroots movement that just started two days ago. Some parents got involved and were speaking about it and got on a group text and were sharing some experiences we had seen with our young men over the last few months. … We had a student-athlete (Burnette) who was charging the kids to get involved and rallying the student-athletes. It all kind of merged together at the same time.”
The biggest concern parents want GCS officials to recognize is “the mental health and the emotional well-being of our students and how they’re being impacted,” said Tutuh, whose son Christian is a rising senior football player and whose son Cameron is a rising sophomore soccer player.
But she also wants “everyone in the community to understand that we’re not negating everything that’s going on in our world right now. We certainly don’t want to minimize the pandemic. I would like for the students to be heard. I would like for the message to be positive.”
One negative for many student-athletes and parents was the delay in Guilford County Schools’ announcement that workouts would not resume Monday and instead would be pushed back to at least Aug. 6. The news release announcing the district’s decision was not emailed until 6:20 p.m. Friday. Other large North Carolina school districts, such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cumberland, Wake and Winston-Salem/Forsyth had announced their decisions earlier.
“The message I want to get out to Guilford County Schools is I understand why they are pushing it back,” Burnette said, “but as far as workouts and not even giving us a chance to try under the guidelines … I wish they would have communicated better and I hope that us telling them how we feel personally will help them think about how they could change the guidelines to get us out there as soon as possible.”
Valarie Tutuh said she is proud of her sons, Burnette and all of the students who are “trying to get their voice heard.”
“It’s one thing to sit back and say, ‘No one cares. No one is going to listen,’ ” she said. “As parents, we have heard our students say that. It’s another thing to put forth the effort and at least try.”
Some Grimsley parents also have started a Facebook group, We Need High School Sports!, to support student-athletes.
As someone who works in the medical field for an Italy-based imaging company, Tutuh has seen the impact of COVID-19 in hospitals and other health-care facilities. She's also seen its impact on her sons and other student-athletes.
“We’re not talking about the kids where the only thing they have going for them is a sport,” she said. “We’re not talking about the fact that there are so many changes in people’s households because of the pandemic — the lack of emotional support, the food insecurity, inadequate housing. Some kids, this is all they have. Though we are a group of parents who are supporting our kids, there are so many who don’t have that across our county and across our state. I really want those who are making the decision to consider those kids. I think that’s what our kids are trying to say without having the words to say it.”