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UPSD Board Votes to Approve Fall Sports
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Fall sports at Upper Perkiomen High School received permission to move forward. Last week, the school board voted 5-4 to allow all sports in the district to proceed under a previously approved health and safety plan.

            Vice President Mike Elliott, Raeann Hofkin, Judith Maginnis, Keith McCarrick and Peg Pennepacker voted to support the motion. President Kerry Drake, Melanie Cunningham, Steven Cunningham and Dana Hipszer voted against it during the Aug. 27 workshop meeting held at the middle school and hosted on Zoom.

            After the vote, two varsity head coaches thanked the board for allowing their seasons to continue amid a pandemic. Jamie Warren, the field hockey coach, said her players will do their best to avoid contracting COVID-19.

            Mike Freed, the girls soccer coach, said the board displayed that it valued athletes. He said his players have so far displayed the necessary maturity to control the things they can.

"Our athletes have been riding an emotional roller coaster all summer," Freed said near the end of a meeting that lasted three hours and 45 minutes.

            Administrators had until Aug. 31 to alert Pioneer Athletic Conference officials of the district's decision, according to Athletic Director Robert Kurzweg. Prior to the vote, he told the members that the school was prepared to proceed under the plan approved by the board in July and renewed in August.

            Superintendent Allyn Roche expressed his support for the recommendation on the agenda. He said anything that could adversely impact the district's goal of returning to in-person schooling needs to be suspended. If one student-athlete tests positive for the virus, that entire sport would be shut down immediately, according to Maginnis.

            "Let's give it a try," she said prior to the vote. "Everyone is following the rules. They want to participate."

            According to Elliot, the district would be doing a disservice to the student-athletes by not offering sports. He said, like the Boy Scouts, they will follow whatever rules are set in order to participate.

            McCarrick echoed Elliot's comments, explaining that student-athletes should be allowed to participate so long as they understand the rules and risks. He said all the responsibility can't fall to the district.

            Maginnis, a former school nurse in the district, described Upper Perkiomen's sports health and safety plan as one of the best she's seen over the last three months. She expressed full comfort with her daughter participating on the field hockey team.  "Our administrators have put every conceivable precaution into place," Maginnis said.

            Hofkin repeatedly urged the members to leave the decision of student participation to parents and guardians. She said they are able to gauge the mental health of their children,

"I don't think we should stand in their way," Hofkin said.

            Steven Cunningham made a motion to allow only singles tennis and golf, sports identified by the Montgomery County Health Department as low-risk. However, it failed 7-2. Melanie Cunningham cast the only other affirmative vote.

            An Aug. 21 directive from the health department identified football, water polo and cheerleading with stunts as high-risk sports; field hockey, soccer and tennis as moderate and cross country, golf and sideline cheerleading a low-risk. A slideshow included in a presentation listed the 14-day positivity rate at 3.1 percent. It recommends that sports be allowed to compete when the rate drops to less than one percent; low and moderate risk sports be permitted to compete with the rate between one and five percent; allow only low-risk sports between five and nine percent and suspend all sports when the rate exceeds nine percent.





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