Still no answers on fall sports at Wilton High School

Still up in the air is whether fall sports, including football and girls volleyball, will be played at Wilton High School.

Still up in the air is whether fall sports, including football and girls volleyball, will be played at Wilton High School.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Keeping with the theme of encouraging pandemic-related safety protocols, some Board of Education members voiced apprehension about high-risk sports at Wilton High School.

“No one wants football more than I do,” Vice Chair Glenn Hemmerle said at the board’s special meeting Thursday night. “No one. But it will cost. It isn’t worth the risk for our students, for our families.”

“It’s ludicrous to even consider doing that in this environment,” he said.

Yet the board — like the rest of Connecticut — is waiting to hear the results of a powwow between the state Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, due to net results on Friday.

“We don’t have an outcome or a resolution,” Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith said.

He said that the CIAC, in essence, ignored the state’s recommendation to move football to the spring.

“The following day the Department of Public Health issued guidance,” Smith said, noting it would be cautious to postpone the start of fall sports, as well as recommending other guidelines to mitigate risk.

“It obviously caused an uproar,” he said.

“Why are they on such different pages if everyone’s concerned about health and safety?” Chair Deborah Low asked rhetorically.

“My recommendation to this board and this community (is) we need to follow the Department of Public Health,” Smith said, which has been the plan all along with the reopening recommendations.

“Whatever that guidance is, I think it should be Wilton’s policy to follow it,” he said.

“It’s my understanding that the Department of Public Health changed their ruling,” explained Chris McDougal, director of athletics, with the state initially approving the CIAC plan for fall sports in late July, but then changing its opinion two weeks ago and asking that it postpone football and girls volleyball to the spring and delay all other fall sports until two weeks after schools open.

McDougal said a letter from the state agency outlining some details and indicating some metrics created confusion for CIAC officials, who then asked to meet.

“There’s some holes in their letter, so CIAC is asking them to fill their holes,” he said.

“By tomorrow afternoon we’re expecting to hear something and then I’ll meet with Kevin and we’ll make a ruling,” he said, noting the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference is scheduled to meet Friday at 1 p.m.

Hemmerle said playing football “flies totally in the face” of making health and safety a priority in relation to the school reopening, which will now officially begin on Monday, Aug. 31.

“We should not play football this fall,” he said, suggesting the FCIAC “step up” as a group and take the lead in postponing.

“I think the risk is too great,” he said.

“I don’t want people to think we’re attacking football,” noted board member Mandi Schmauch. “Every sport has to be looked at.”

“But football is the highest risk of all,” Hemmerle said.

“There is no such thing as social distancing in football,” he said. “The object is to hit the guy, to tackle him and to pile on.”

Chair Deborah Low said she hopes the two groups will reach an agreement on the protocol and metrics school districts should use to determine if they can safely hold fall sports.

“Let’s hope that CIAC and DPH can come out with a unified front,” she said. “I think it’ll help everybody.”

“We totally understand the passion in the community for the sports… We’re not diminishing that,” she said.

“But we’re trying to put it in the context of the global pandemic.”