DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - As the high school football season nears its end, basketball and wrestling are just getting started with the first games of the year slated for Monday. In some school districts, these sports will be missing something the fall sports had – fans.
The Dorchester School District Two competitions will be played without fans in the stands, at least to begin with. Summerville High School Principal Kenny Farrell sent a letter to parents and students Monday afternoon saying the decision was made in response to “rising numbers of [COVID] infections around the country”.
“In an effort to reduce the risk of exposure for our student-athletes, coaches, and spectators and in following the lead of other sports organizations, we will not be allowing spectators to our home basketball and wrestling matches to begin the season,” Farrell wrote.
The games will not be completely unavailable to avid fans and parents. Farrell’s letter says the three high schools – Ashley Ridge, Fort Dorchester and Summerville High School – will be working together to provide some level of virtual, viewing access.
“Parents and fans should see announcements from the school for details on how the games will be broadcast,” Farrell wrote.
The news came as a shock to Sherry Crummey. She has a son at Fort Dorchester who is on the basketball team.
“It’s a little disconcerting not to be able to at least support him when he starts the season,” Crummey said. “I have never, that I can recall, missed a game of my son’s that was within my power to do so.”
The announcement came a day before the last day of in-person school before the holiday break. Crummey says she found out about the decision from another community member, not the letter that was sent to parents.
“We haven’t received an official letter or any notice from the school directly,” Crummey said. “We have been in this pandemic for 8 months now and I figured a little more planning would have been put in place to figure out what we could do. . . I am just a little disappointed that this was given to us just before the holiday and right before the season is set to start.”
Summerville High School Athletic Director Brion Rutherford acknowledged that the messaging may not have been perfect.
“We may not have timed the delivery of the information all synced up,” Rutherford said. “I sent the information to our coaches on Monday. I thought it was important that they have that in their hands as soon as they could. It was a decision that was made between our district leadership, all three high school principals and all three high school athletic directors.”
He says they looked at how colleges are handling indoor sports and made the decision based on safety.
“It’s not that we are trending super bad, but we are certainly not trending in the right direction,” Rutherford said. “We want to make sure our players and coaches stay safe but in addition if our basketball games are where infection is spreading, that’s got the potential to put off us getting back to school face to face even further.”
The only people who will be allowed to enter the facilities will be the athletes, coaches, bookkeepers and game staff. Rutherford says he fully understands the frustrations of parents.
“I am the father of four students who all participated in athletics in high school. My son was a senior last year and only got a couple of golf matches in before they called his season,” Rutherford said. “I know there is some emotional attachment to being able to watch your kids play.”
The policy will be reviewed on a weekly basis and parents would be the first group of people who would be allowed back into the gyms.
The Berkeley County School District is taking a slightly different approach. They will allow spectators but at a reduced capacity. Each facility will have a reduced capacity number posted outside the entrance. The Charleston County School District will limit capacity to their facilities to 16 percent.