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Appo board approves return to sports by a 4-1 vote, despite concerns from board members

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

ODESSA -- The Appoquinimink Board of Education voted Sept. 23 to bring back sports for the fall in a 4-1 vote, but not without concerns from its board members.

Charlisa Edelin, a mother of several scholar-athletes, was the only board member to vote against the decision to play, saying that the board’s focus should be on providing students with an education.

“I think the DIAA has given us a pile of poop that we have to deal with,” she said during the meeting.

Middletown's Najair Smith (6) runs through the Hodgson defense in the 2019 DIAA Division I state championship at Delaware Stadium. Hodgson defeated Middletown 54-31.

Earlier this month, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association and the State Board of Education approved the return of fall sports, with football and wrestling requiring the use of masks.

However, the final decision rests with local school boards to approve fall sports in each district to allow pre-season activities to start Sept. 28 for their schools.

Edelin said the plan that Ray Gravuer, special program supervisor, presented was great, but she thought it was “a ludicrous idea” to expect the board to put students on the field when they are uncertain if the students are getting properly educated.

“We can barely get them to school, and we have beautiful plans, we have great plans, we’re doing the best we can to get them in school, but that’s what we’re here for. I’m tired of public school systems being the babysitters, the food providers and now the fun police. It’s ridiculous,” Edelin said.

Although Edelin was the sole member to vote against the return of sports, she was not the only one with concerns.

Norm Abrams said he wanted to see more details about the plan, but it wasn’t going to hold him back from saying “yes” to sports.

Michelle Wall said the position that the board has been put in is unfair, but the board approving sports is giving parents the option to let their kids play.

“I’m not saying as an individual board member or a collective board, that your kid has to play sports. We’re saying we see value in it, and we’re providing an opportunity in the same way we see value in in-class instruction,” she said.

Next steps

Appo is hoping to provide varsity, JV and freshman teams for the three high schools this year, but it will depend on participation from students and other teams in the Blue Hen Conference. Gravuer said some schools in the conference have considered opting for varsity-only.

The supervisor said athletes would be required to find their own transportation to and from games and practices. When board member Kelly Wright questioned if this was fair for students whose families might not have cars, Gravuer said they shouldn’t cancel sports for a few students in these situations.

“The question becomes, ‘Do you hold back those who can do it for the others?’ We can try to do whatever we can [to help those without transportation],” Gravuer said.

He said families who need help can reach out to coaches, but he expects students to find transportation on their own.

Earlier this month, the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association and the State Board of Education approved the return of fall sports. The DIAA told local boards to approve a return to fall sports plan for their district to allow pre-season activities to start Sept. 28 for their schools.

Board President Richard Forsten believed that teammates will help each, while also following Delaware Department of Health guidelines.

“There may be some carpooling going on. I think players and teams will pull together to make sure no player gets left behind. I would expect that because that’s what good teammates do,” he said.

Spectators allowed?

A limited number of spectators will be allowed at games and they will be socially distanced and required to wear masks. Gravure said they considered not allowing any spectators but believe parents should be allowed to see their children play.

He said it would be similar to how families were seated at graduation.

Concessions stands will not be open during the games, but bathrooms will, based on the plan presented Wednesday evening.