Hopewell School District considers requiring COVID vaccine for athletes in certain sports

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 10:51 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2021 at 11:16 PM EST
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - As we continue living through a pandemic, school districts in the area are working to navigate what’s appropriate for teachers and staff when it comes to vaccines. For Hopewell Schools, that means the possibility of soon requiring vaccines for student-athletes who take part in what leaders call “close contact” sports. That includes wrestling and basketball, as opposed to other sports like golf or cross country, where players don’t have to be in close quarters.

Like with most sports, skill is everything, but Hopewell High’s coach is making a plea before a wrestling match begins.

“In order for me to proceed and put kids in that position, I need to know that we’re doing everything possible,” Rich Halas said. He compares it to this. “If I was going to drive them across the state, I would require that we have a van that has seatbelts that work, and if it didn’t, I wouldn’t drive it, so that’s where we are.”

Halas addressed the Hopewell School Board last week, begging leaders to require vaccinations for all athletes participating in close contact sports. Right now, the only requirement is for Hopewell athletes to get a COVID test each week.

Even the principal of the high school is on board with requiring vaccines.

“Our concern is because this is so much more close contact and in close quarters…It’s all indoors. It’s very high contact for both basketball and wrestling,” Dr. Stephanie Poe said.

After making their case, NBC 12 reached out to the school district to find if this could become a new policy.

“We are now in the process of moving forward with this requirement so that we can maximize the safety of participation in these sports for our students, coaches, and their families,” a school district spokesperson said.

“It’s impossible to wrestle and social distance,” Dr. Poe said.

“I spent about 12 months trying to figure out a way to do it, and I haven’t made much progress,” Halas added. “I don’t want them in the wrestling room without that added piece of protection.”

NBC12 reached out to multiple school districts, including Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Petersburg, and Hanover; each said it does not require student-athletes to get vaccinated.

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