Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg student-athletes get the “OK” to play, fall season back on

Acting Superintendent Chris Celmer. File photo.

Student-athletes in Harrisburg are off the bench.

The school district plans to begin scheduling games for all fall sports, district Acting Superintendent Chris Celmer announced on Monday.

This comes as a reversal to his initial decision in August to cancel the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in September, Celmer saw a possibility of resuming sports as the spread of the virus decreased locally.

“I’m extremely excited for our students,” athletic director Calvin Everett said. “They now have the opportunity to get to compete.”

Harrisburg will be behind, Everett said, as many other local schools started the season on time.

In his newsletter on Monday, Celmer explained the data that the school wanted to see before making the call to resume and that it had been met.

The benchmarks included a three-week period of sustained testing positivity rates from 3 to 4% and incidence rates per 100,000 people below a rate of 50 in Dauphin County.

As of Oct. 2, the positivity rate was 3.7% and the incidence rate was 47.6 in Dauphin County.

“The outlined metrics were met for a three-week period,” Celmer said. “Therefore, the school district will begin scheduling games for all fall sports.”

Everett said all the fall sports teams have been practicing for over two weeks now.

While scheduling games has been difficult for Everett, due to the late start, he already has competitions lined up.

The football team will play its first game this weekend. Soccer, volleyball and women’s tennis will compete starting October 19, Everett said.

The school’s band and cheer team can participate in home games only, he said.

Celmer added that the school district reserves the right to pause workouts and cancel scheduled games if the weekly positivity and incidence rates show a sustained increase. They may also cancel games if players or coaches contract COVID-19 or if local health professionals recommend postponing sports.

Spectators for sporting events will be limited, Celmer said, but the district is working on live streaming options.

This decision to let students play comes after many concerned comments from district families were shared at a school board meeting on Sept. 21.

“I’m asking that you please reconsider your decision and allow these children to play,” one comment said. “This means a lot to these kids, their families and community.”

In a letter to district parents on Sept. 13, Celmer thanked those who reached out with concerns.

“As long as a student-athlete, coach, band-performer and/or cheerleader is wearing the Cougar uniform, I am responsible for the health and safety of each one of them,” he said in the letter. “As Superintendent, I do not take this responsibility lightly.”

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This story was updated with comments from athletic director Calvin Everett.

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