PARKERSBURG — Not so fast.
A day after the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission said in published reports that marching bands would not perform at high and middle school football games this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jim Justice announced forthcoming policies to get them back on the field.
“This decision was made without my input,” Justice said in an emailed statement Tuesday “Today, I directed our medical experts to work with the WVSSAC and the Department of Education, and go back to the drawing board to find a safe way for our marching bands to do what they love to do: perform.
“Our medical experts evaluated guidelines from the National Federation of High School Sports and the West Virginia Bandmasters Association and put a plan together that keeps our band members socially distanced and as safe as possible, while allowing them to perform in the stadium on game days and allowing their families to watch their performances,” the governor said.
Bernie Dolan, executive director of the WVSSAC, said the guidelines were sent to schools Tuesday afternoon and were to be released on the commission’s social media platforms Tuesday evening.
One of the biggest concerns the organization had about bands was possible aerosol transmission of the novel coronavirus, he said.
“When … you’re playing in the stands, then you’re blowing down upon someone else,” Dolan said.
The guidelines include having bands sit in separate, temporary bleachers or not playing while sitting in the stands, he said. How each band works within those guidelines may vary.
“They’re going to be creative. The band people are always creative,” Dolan said.
Parkersburg South High School band director Christopher Shew said he and his students were disappointed to hear of the SSAC’s initial decision.
“We’ve been practicing for five weeks, socially distanced, wearing masks,” he said. “We can practice but we can’t perform? That’s strange.”
Shew said he received support from the school district and plans were being made for the band to record a show that could be played at games, even if they couldn’t perform in person.
But Shew was glad to hear about the governor’s announcement.
“They’re ready to go,” he said of his students.
Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook said Tuesday that “the proper decision’s been made.”
Before Justice’s announcement, Hosaflook said the district would do “everything possible to allow those students to participate,” including school dance teams as well as bands.
With social distancing measures in place and two-hour practices instead of band camp, this year’s show will be a little different, Shew said. There will be fewer moving parts and “a little bit more entertainment,” he said, adding that some elements will be added after the first game, scheduled for Sept. 4. There are three away games, to which visiting schools’ bands will not travel, before South returns to the Erickson All-Sports Facility on Oct. 2.
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox