Student-athletes, parents push Durham school board to save football season amid pandemic

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fears and frustrations are growing around the empty football fields at Durham high schools.

While most local districts have laid out plans for a return to the field during the pandemic, Durham Public Schools is keeping football and most of its sports on ice.


Some parents and students are fearful of losing out on college scholarships. Now, there's a new petition aimed at changing minds at DPS.

"It was really tough on me since I've been playing the game for so long," said Vincent Anthony, Jr. With his Jordan High School facilities off-limits because of COVID-19, Anthony spoke to ABC11 in between workouts in his family's garage.

"I've just been grinding putting in the work in the off-season with my dad," said Vincent.

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But this off-season has been longer than anyone expected. And now the season is in jeopardy as DPS leaders debate how to balance COVID-19 concerns with a safe return to campus.

Unlike other Triangle districts, DPS has only approved soft-openings for cross country track and volleyball. There's no decision yet on football or any other sports as the board mulls how to cautiously get kids back into Durham classrooms.

"It's very disheartening as a mom," said Bonny Anthony, who, along with Vincent's father, works in health care.

Vincent Anthony, Sr. is a volunteer coach for his son's team. Both parents have gotten behind the petition written by the Falcons football leadership council. The players are urging the school board to reverse its decision barring voluntary workouts for players.

"We know that it can be done successfully, safely and effectively," Bonnye Anthony said.

Vincent Sr. added, "Durham Public School District is the only district in the state that has not given the approval for voluntary workouts."

ABC11 reached out to DPS for a comment on the petition. A spokesperson said, "Durham Public School District and the Board of Education continues to work together to navigate the novel coronavirus and its effects on our district. We are monitoring the data and evaluating our options."

The North Carolina High School Sports Association has given the green light for football games to begin play under COVID-19 protocols beginning in late February. Vincent Anthony is hoping to be back on the field.

"Hopefully the school board can change their mind," he said. "But, we're just going to fight for the season and fight for us to work out."
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