Union Local instituting a guideline for athletic return

MORRISTOWN — Aware of what was transpiring at other school districts in Belmont County involving the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Union Local Superintendent Ben Porter decided to be proactive.

While all Jets sports are still permitted to condition, train and stage open gyms as they had been, Porter has recommended a guideline that any Union Local athlete who goes on an extended leave or vacation outside of the state of Ohio — for more than one day — will be required to quarantine from their respective workouts for 14 days before he or she returns to participation in sports.

Porter informed all of his coaches of the guidelines and the measure on Tuesday and made them aware that it was effective immediately.

“Obviously, people have the right to vacation and travel as they please, but we’re going to do all we can to be cautious during this very fluid situation,” Porter said. “I talked to some medical personnel about this and got some input before making the final decision.”

There is no definite timetable for how long this guideline will remain in place at Union Local.

“We’re going to at least do it for the next couple of weeks,” Porter said. “We obviously want to get kids back to some kind of normalcy, but we’re also being cautious.”

Union Local athletes who go to West Virginia for something or spend a day in Pittsburgh, for example, wouldn’t be subjected to the quarantine rule.

The move comes with hopes of avoiding an outright shutdown of sports for the time being, similar to what Bellaire and Shadyside have had to do after several COVID-19 tests have come back positive since a large group went to Myrtle Beach earlier this month.

“I believe those schools made the right call because you have to be cautious with all of this,” Porter said. “If you’re not, things could really spiral back up again.”

There have been a few other cases of schools having to shut down throughout the tri-state area, including at least one more near Dayton and one in Preston Co. in West Virginia.

“As a school, we’re trying to balance out that we know people on one side want life as normal life and there are people on the other side taking as much caution as they can,” Porter said. “We’ll always keep safety at the forefront because all it takes is one person (to test positive) and you’re going to be shutting things down again.”

Union Local is still developing its plan to allow its teams to begin the intersquad scrimmage portion of the return to play. The Jets actually stayed in the OHSAA’s Phase One recommendation a week longer than they formally had to.

“I give our coaches a ton of credit because they’ve done an excellent job with all of the guidelines,” Porter said. “They’ve done all of the checks, sanitized, kept the groups smaller and just really followed the plan.”

Porter said all of his coaches were on board with his latest decision, explaining that many had been seeking some guidance after seeing what was transpiring in the other schools.

“I don’t want any of our coaches to be in the situation where they have to make that call,” Porter said. “My position and job is to make that determination and deal with anything that comes about. Some people (in the public) may not be in favor of this and some will be OK with it. And there’s probably a degree at which both sets are right, but we’re going to work through them the best we can.”


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