MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Monday, it took the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) almost four-and-a-half hours to provide guidance on whether or not students would be learning remotely or not this fall, but they weren’t done.
In a pair of votes, the BOSC approved most fall sports to occur, albeit with some changes.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Manchester School District Athletics Department requested that the BOSC allow a waiver of Student Policy 116.1, a policy regarding academic expectations of student-athletes and 157 (7) regarding travel for athletes.
The modification of the travel policy, which currently requires athletes to ride on a school bus to any road games, was changed to require parents to bring their children to games. While this did not meet much controversy, the other proposed change did meet with opposition.
Committeeman Arthur Beaudry (Ward 9) felt that if athletes were not held accountable for completing academic assignments, they should not participate in sporting events after school, even if school was being held remotely.
Beaudry, who has also expressed repeated concern about the safety of any students or staff members in school facilities until the pandemic concludes, believed that the district should not allow any sports unless they could ensure that the athletes would be six feet apart and wearing masks at all times, a sentiment that did not find traction with his colleagues.
The motion on the travel modification passed 14-1 with only Dan Bergeron (Ward 6) voting in opposition. Bergeron’s vote came in protest after he told Manchester School District Clerk Angela Carey that he was unsure what he was voting on because other people had been talking over each other and Carey told him that the time for discussion was over and he must vote.
The waiver of the academic expectations policy passed 10-5. Leslie Want (Ward 4), William Shea (Ward 7), Beaudry, Kelly Thomas (Ward 12) and Joseph Lachance (At-Large) voted in opposition.
In the other sports-related vote of the evening, the BOSC voted 11-4 to allow “low risk” and “moderate risk” sports seasons begin upon the start dates recommended by the NHIAA with “high risk” sports to be assessed at an upcoming meeting.
Teams at the two schools will play a “regional” schedule against each other, Bedford, Goffstown and Concord, with the soccer teams also hosting Hanover. No determination has been made as of yet for Manchester West High School.
Here, Beaudry, Dr. Nicole Leapley (Ward 11), Kelly Thomas (Ward 12), and Lachance (At-Large) voted in opposition.
Lachance’s opposition on both motions came in spite of the fact that he felt student-athletes should be given a chance to play. Lachance also supported an immediate return to in-person education as well, feeling that it was hypocritical of the board to support remote learning but in-person extracurricular activities.
While voting to allow the low and medium risk sports to return, Want also expressed concern regarding the return of sports, stating that she could not conceive how football could be played safety given the ongoing pandemic.