AKRON, Ohio — Just when it looked like hope was lost for athletes in the Akron School District to play fall sports, a couple of changes of heart may get them back in the game.
Board member Derrick Hall said he and Diana Autry plan to change their votes at a special board meeting scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m.
Hall had voted yes on non-contact sports but no on contact sports. Autry initially voted yes on contact sports, but when that failed, she voted against non-contact sports.
If they change their no votes, it is likely that all fall sports will be allowed to resume practices and then competitions.
Steve Marshall, a parent of a high school swimmer, started an online petition urging Akron sports to return. It received more than 2,000 signatures.
Chris Pongracz, a senior on the Firestone High School soccer team, said it has been very tough not being able to practice or look forward to games, but he's now optimistic that the board will reverse course.
"I hope it works out. Everyone is leaning on that and wanting it to work out," Pongracz said.
Alex Knight, a senior on the Firestone football team, is hoping he doesn't miss out on playing in his last year of high school.
"We're not used to this. Nobody is used to this. This hasn't happened to anybody," Knight said. "We need sports in our lives."
Summit County Health Commisssioner Donna Skoda, who recommended a delay on contact sports until October because of coronavirus spread concerns, still has hesitations about sports moving forward.
"Do we think they'll have cases? Yeah. I don't think you can open any layer of risk without increased cases," Skoda said.
However, Skoda said she's more comfortable with sports returning if coaches, athletes, and parents take necessary precautions. In addition, the school district is starting remotely with classes for the first nine weeks.
"If they play sports, a shortened season, at least we know that they won't be going back to school and bringing back anything that is spread."
Todd Fitzwater, the president of boosters for all Firestone sports, said it's up to everyone connected to Akron sports to mitigate the risk.
"It's going to give our kids the opportunity to rise to the challenge and be leaders and show that we can do it the right way, both our coaches, our student athletes and our parents," Fitzwater said.
Tera Brilmyer, a sophomore on the Firestone swim team, said coaches are prepared to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and react if there's any positive cases.
"I know my coaches, and I'm sure the other ones, would suspend practices for the required time," Brilmyer said.
Nya Booker, a member of the Firestone women's soccer team, believes the petition, along with emails from parents and athletes, convinced some board members to reconsider their positions.
"The community wrapping around us and pushing for our sports and our futures has really felt supportive," Booker said.