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We Asked, You Answered: Should Schools Allow Winter Sports In The Pandemic?

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Throughout this school year, NHPR’s COVID & The Classroom reporting initiative has asked students, teachers and parents to share their stories of what education looks like during the pandemic.

Although many New Hampshire schools are currently in hybrid or remote status, many are still moving forward with winter sports.  COVID-19 transmission in school buildings has remained relatively low, but high-contact sports have raised some safety concerns.

There are strong feelings about this. Many school boards are in favor of continuing sports — while school administrators have pushed back.

As schools debate the issue, we asked our audience,  “Can winter sports be safe during the pandemic, and are they worth the risk?”

We heard from parents, coaches and a few students. 

Here is some of what you told us:

As a high school teacher, I know many kids who need sports to stay healthy and happy, especially in the long, dark winters we have here. My son has worked so hard to earn opportunities in his sport, and to take that away would be devastating. He is also hoping to participate in sports in college and missing an entire season could impact that. Skiing is an outdoor sport that could be safe with reasonable precautions. I fear that all sports will be cancelled even though some are riskier than others. Erin Sweeney, teacher and parent in Littleton

There is absolutely no logical justification for continuing with contact sports beyond 'I just want to.' One athletic director told me he just thought ‘the kids need to play.’ As important as sports are, this is a crisis. The sooner we recognize our individual responsibilities to reduce transmission of COVID 19 the sooner we can all get back. It’s a bitter pill and it impacts my job and earnings as well.  — Arthur Maerlender, high school concussion management consultant in New London

I think that for this winter any sports that are held inside and all schools should be remote. I feel that it is almost impossible to be safe if the kids are doing sports inside especially if they are in mixed groups from several towns. I do not feel safe sending my dancer, but it has been implied that if the dancers don't come they will be kicked out of dance/ lose their spots. Most parents, like myself and my husband, would choose to take the risk. — Shelly Todd, parent in Northwood

Sports bring a vitality to our youth and gives them a sense of optimism, that we can all move forward and live with the virus in our midst, but while taking precautions and following rules to stay safe from it. These kids don't get this back — we owe it to them as adults to make it happen as cautiously as possible, and not just cancelling their season because it's easier than dealing with it. — Becky Kollmoregen, parent in North Hampton

“As with fall sports, there is a risk involved where parents should get the right to choose to let their athletes play or not. If athletes don't play for their high school, then they will play somewhere else. By playing high school sports, school admin have the ability to freely connect with each other when there are positive cases involved. School districts also have been able to monitor and keep track of protocols and safety for everyone when they are connected to their school community.” — Alex Sobolov, Newfound Area School District staff

“When outside, the risk of transmission is much lower because of better airflow and more space to distance yourself and others. I think having winter sports would be worth it for the mental health of kids. This would help kids who are learning remotely go outside and exercise and not stay behind a screen all day.” — Marin, student athlete from Waterville Valley

School sports and clubs are as critical to our children's education as the core academic curriculum. All sports and clubs inherently teach group dynamics, winning/losing, discipline, and a number of other essential life skills our kids will require beyond their high school years. Shutting these activities off will have consequences for these kids that we're not factoring into our decisions. — David Boudreau, parent in Brookline

Add your voice to our reporting on COVID & The Classroom here.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
Zoey Knox is NHPR's newsroom engagement producer. She has spent most of her radio years at college radio stations in Madison, WI (WSUM) and Seattle, WA (KXSU).
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