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MARTINSBURG — With a newly approved reentry plan for Berkeley County Schools holding off the return to in-person learning until all employees have the chance to receive vaccines, sports will, in turn, be pushed back.
Winter sports already have been delayed twice statewide in action by Gov. Jim Justice in response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
The governor offered a new starting date earlier this week. However, it appears athletes from the four high schools in Berkeley County won’t be able to start practices on Feb. 15 when the rest of the state does.
Instead, a source told The Journal that practice can’t begin in Berkeley County until some two weeks later.
During a special meeting of the Berkeley County Board of Education on Wednesday night, Berkeley County deputy superintendent Don Dellinger gave some insight on the athletics calendar moving forward.
The approved reentry plan did not give a specific date as to when students and staff will return.
“The (West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission), (Tuesday), sent out a proposed winter and spring sports calendar to our schools based upon the governor’s orders,” Dellinger said. “Our athletic directors have that. We met with them (Tuesday) afternoon. It was actually during that meeting that we got that calendar. That calendar is a framework for us to use to establish our practices and schedule.
“Our practices and schedules in Berkeley County would have to be based upon our return-to-learning plan. It does give us some leeway to move dates around. We are looking at the possibility of, depending on the return-to-learn plan, beginning to practice for spring sports on March 22. There will certainly be some overlap. It’s going to take a lot of planning and work with the athletic directors and our coaches to not only do the scheduling but also to work things out so that all of our winter and spring athletes are able to compete.”
The WVSSAC is allowing spring sports to begin practice on March 15, a week earlier than the tentative date in Berkeley County.
The initial schedule sent out by the WVSSAC, after working with the West Virginia Department of Education and the governor’s office, indicated that winter sports practices could begin Feb. 15, and the first contests for girls basketball, wrestling and swimming would be March 3, with boys basketball starting at the end of that week.
The source said winter sports practice in Berkeley County would not be allowed to start until March 1, which would limit the number of contests that can take place and put the sports teams in the county behind teams throughout West Virginia.
“This is under the fact that we would have to be at an orange or better status to be able to practice or play,” Dellinger said. “If we were red, we would not be able to practice or play during that time.”
Berkeley County has been red on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources map for the vast majority of late fall into winter, the district going red on the now-defunct WVDE Saturday map for the first time on Nov. 21. The county faced remote learning for the majority of the first semester.
Board member Todd Beckwith, assuming the four local high schools only would be able to play against other West Virginia schools, asked if there were in guidelines yet in place if orange schools would be allowed to play districts that were gold or better, guidelines similar to what were issued during football season.
“As of right now, the only thing we have to go on is the governor’s orders that says that you cannot participate if your county is in red,” Dellinger said. “That and the schedule sent out by the SSAC are the only things we had. We did participate in a Zoom meeting with the SSAC last week, and there was no mention of those types of guidelines.”
The county’s reopening plan, while approved by the local board, must be submitted and approved by the state board.
— Rick Kozlowski contributed to this story.

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