Updated: 7:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, 2020
The Akron Public School Board voted 4-3 Monday evening to let all fall sports go forward, effective immediately, reversing a decision made last week. The board also voted to allow the marching band to play this fall.
The special meeting was scheduled after the district faced growing outcry from the public that took the form of protests, petitions, emails and phone calls.
Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order allowing contact and non-contact sports to proceed in the fall, but left the final decision up to each school district. Many Ohio school districts immediately started allowing teams to resume practice and continue with scheduled games.
Last week, Akron’s school board voted 4-3 to postpone football and other fall contact sports for at least nine weeks, in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Throughout the week, however, the school district faced mounting pressure from students and parents to reverse its decision.
School board members Derrick Hall and Diana Autry requested the special meeting and Hall told ideastream Monday afternoon that a “plethora of things” made him reverse his earlier decision.
“We had a very sort of loud and active parental component to this. There were multiple petitions that went around that had several thousand signatures,” Hall said. “I think that being a member of a community elected board, it's important to sort of take [the] pulse and sort of notice when you have that kind of activism going on around an issue.
The number of Akron schools’ student-athletes participating contributed to his decision, Hall said.
“We're talking about 800 students, not 20,000,” he said. “So, in thinking about it, we don’t have sports combined with in-person school,” said Hall, who added that these students are “spread across a plethora of different teams. So it's not 100 students, even all together.”
During the meeting, board member Lisa Mansfield expressed dismay that they were reconsidering their previous decision.
“I just feel like we're kind of torturing the public at this point,” said Mansfield. “If it feels like Groundhog Day to me, I'm certain it feels like that to them as well. We need to be nimble. We need to make decisions. We need to be the deciding body. We need to take action based on guidance and from the experts.”
Mansfield said, ultimately, she supports each board member’s opinion and has “everyone’s back.”
In his interview with ideastream, Hall said the board could still reverse Monday night’s decision if “we start seeing students test positive.”
“The board has a right to reverse any decisions it makes,” said Hall. “So my thought, my assumption is that... as we monitor this, if in the coming weeks, we see COVID outbreaks on these teams, I would imagine that we would be revisiting this again.”