By DEBBIE WACHTER
NEW CASTLE NEWS
Despite some reservations of New Castle Area school board members about COVID-19, the board collectively on Monday approved the use of the high school gymnasiums for a pre-season basketball league.
In an 8-0 vote, the members granted the request of basketball coach Ralph Blundo to use the high school gym and auxiliary gym for league games on Oct. 21, Saturday, Oct. 28, 29, 31, and Nov. 2, 3, 4, 7 and 10, from 5 to 9 p.m.
Blundo had approached the board at its public work session Oct. 13, requesting the use of the gym for the league beginning that week. He expressed the importance of the district’s students getting to condition and socialize before the district’s upcoming basketball season.
“They need this,” he said. He explained that the league already has played three out-of-town games in Sharon and Hermitage in Mercer County this fall.
Members Anna Pascarella and Robert Lyles and Tracy Rankin at the work session all had expressed concerns about the teams using the facilities with teams coming in from elsewhere and playing sports, yet students have not returned to their classrooms.
“We’re not even in a classroom to teach our kids, and we’re going to add extracurricular activities,” Pascarella commented. “Lets just worry about education. We just had a case Friday and we canceled football. We don’t know what our teachers or kids are doing outside of work. Lets just worry about a basketball season for the varsity sport,” she reasoned.
Lyles said he wouldn’t want the varsity team to lose its season, should the whole basketball team have to be quarantined.
Board member Mark Panella agreed, commenting, “I think the kids should be in the classrooms.”
“I’m with you,” Pascarella said.
Superintendent Debbie DeBlasio offered a compromise of the scheduling. Blundo had requested game dates be approved before the board’s regular meeting, and the schedule of dates was adjusted until after the vote.
DeBlasio said the district has a return to school plan and a sports plan in place for the pandemic. The children are returning to school for “some type of normalcy,” she said.
Her compromise was that the league start Oct. 21 instead of a week earlier, as Blundo proposed.
“I believe sports is also a social-emotional thing,” she said. She recommended the later start to the board “so we’re all moving forward. We may get a hiccup, but we’ll go one step at a time. We will move forward with what makes the whole child.”
She added that the district will make sure the custodial staff is deep-cleaning the gymnasium after every game.
The board meeting was held virtually via Zoom, and member Tracy Rankin did not participate in the vote.
In other matters, the board:
•Granted Victory Family Church the use of the high school auditorium for prayer meetings.
•Appointed new school board member Gary Schooley as a district member of the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center’s joint operating committee.
He fills the vacancy left by the resignation of Steve Fornataro.
•Approved the hiring of Cheryl Sorbo as a cafeteria server at the junior-senior high school.
•Added Preston Raeburn, custodian, to the nonprofessional substitute list.
•Approved Erika Kendra as an emergency substitute teacher and Erica Latess as a substitute teacher for of grades pre-kindergarten through 8 in special education and pre-kindergarten through 4 in regular classes.