WHS Parents Want Sports to Continue Despite Virtual Learning

By JENNIFER GLACKIN
Specially Written for The Leader/Times

WESTFIELD — Westfield High School (WHS) pivoted to an all virtual model until October 1 due to six students who tested positive for COVID. All extracurricular activities were also cancelled, including sports. Parents of the football team have asked the Board of Education to hold a special meeting where they can be heard, in hopes of overturning the decision.

According to the update sent out by Westfield Superintendent Margaret Dolan, Ed.D. on Wednesday evening, the six WHS students contracted the virus from an outside source.

Parent Matt Sontz, whose son plays football for WHS, shared an email he sent to the Board of Education and Ms. Dolan with The Westfield Leader/Times. “The fact that some students contracted the virus at other locations and did not give it to other students at school is no reason to suspend an already limited fall schedule,” Mr.  Sontz wrote.

While not all football parents have responded to a group email chain, Mr. Sontz said the ones that have responded want the season to continue despite the recent outbreak.

“I was a little bit surprised and frustrated” by the shutting of schools and suspension of sports, said another football parent who works as legal counsel and COVID-19 crisis manager for a New Jersey city health department and asked to remain unnamed.  The purpose of contact tracing is to identify at-risk individuals and minimize the effects of quarantine on the larger population, he said.

“Close contact” individuals should be contacted within 24-hours of a positive result. The state of New Jersey defines close contact as “anyone who was within six feet of you for more than 10 minutes at least two days before” a positive test or symptoms arise. This parent also said he has had to be involved with school based COVID-19 cases. “If the desks are spaced six feet apart, there is no need to shut down that classroom,” he said.

In an email to The Leader/Times, Ms. Dolan said, “I understand that families with student-athletes in our fall programs are disappointed.  I am, too.  I want our students in school and on the field.  Ultimately, I must do what I feel is in the best interest of our students and staff.”

Ms. Dolan said the decision was made after consulting with the Westfield Board of Health, which also recommended suspending athletics and all other extracurricular activities.  While the decision did not need approval from the Board of Education, Ms. Dolan did tell the board about it prior to sending out the community update.

Ms. Dolan continued, “All of this happened under a very tight timeline. This is new to all of us.  I will continue to make decisions based on the best ways to keep our students and staff safe, as recommended by those who know best, our health care professionals.”