As hopes were again dashed Wednesday about the possibility of a fall sports season at Reading High, there came a glimmer of hope.
Superintendent Dr. Khalid Mumin mentioned at Wednesday’s Reading School Board meeting a consortium of schools that will meet Friday to talk about playing fall sports in the spring.
“We always held out hope (for a delayed fall season),” Mumin said Thursday. “We’re excited about that.”
Mumin was planning to join superintendents from the Allentown, Cheltenham, Harrisburg and Pottstown school districts to discuss the possibility. Late Thursday, the Allentown School School voted to proceed with fall sports.
Extracurricular activities at Reading High were suspended earlier this month due the coronavirus pandemic. It is the only school in Berks County, and one of just three in District 3, to take that step.
Students and parents made a plea for a reversal of that decision to the school board Wednesday, but to no avail. Coronavirus statistics, Mumin and others on the board said, currently don’t allow a safe return to sports or other in-person activities.
The news was hard to take for student-athletes such as Elijah Williams, a senior on the football team.
“Our goals and aspirations will be affected tremendously by this decision,” Williams told the board. “Football is not just a sport but an outlet for many of us.”
Mumin, a former college basketball player who has been superintendent in the Reading district since 2014, understands the importance of sports and what missing that experience means to his students.
“We are seriously looking at some alternatives for our kids, because we understand the struggles they’re experiencing by not having athletics,” he said. “We never closed the door on looking at alternatives. The safety of all kids is paramount, not only for athletics but for all extracurricular activities.”
The PIAA opened a window for moving fall sports to the spring at its Aug. 21 meeting, voting 30-0 to allow schools that have suspended extracurricular activities to hold them in the spring.
The PIAA did not reveal any hard details for such a plan, but several ideas have been floated for Pennsylvania, and some are being implemented by other states.
The Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association forwarded a plan to the PIAA that would call for three truncated seasons, starting in January.
Winter sports, such as basketball and wrestling, could be played in January and February. Fall sports could be played in March and April. Spring sports could start in May and extend until the end of June.
Each season would be shortened and playoffs would be truncated; it’s possible there would be no district or state playoffs, or that they would be severely curtailed.
Such a plan would work with Gov. Tom Wolf’s recommendation not to play sports in Pennsylvania until Jan. 1.
The plan would require enough schools in a given geographic area to move fall sports to the spring so that there would be ample competition.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Reading High and the others involved in Friday’s meeting given the large number of leagues and schools in District 1 that have shut down, including the Philadelphia Public and Catholic leagues, the Del-Val League and the Inter-Ac.
More than 50 schools across the state have suspended play, most located in southeastern Pennsylvania, which has had the highest rate of COVID-19 spread.
Mumin said that plans for a move to the spring have been discussed in detail by athletic directors at schools that have suspended play.
The plan also would be dependent on a decrease in COVID-19 cases, enough to make it safe to conduct indoor sports, such as wrestling and swimming.
There are many scheduling and logistical details to be worked out; schools would need the proper facilities to allow preseason practices while other sports are being conducted.
Mumin said that facilities would not be an issue for the Reading School District.
“As long as we get the green light from a health perspective (to proceed), I’m pretty confident whatever plan comes about we’ll be able to implement it,” Mumin said.
Red Knights football coach Andre Doyle is urging the PIAA to come up with a plan for a spring football season.
“Are we simply going to let these kids go without football for an entire year?” Doyle asked.