Reading, MA — The second half of the fall sports season will begin on Monday, February 22 at RMHS, which will see the reintroduction of sports such as Football, Cheer, Indoor Track, Volleyball, and Girls Swimming. Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Doherty updated RPS families on this and other events in his newest Pathways blog post.
Students participating in the Fall 2 Season will be required to participate in the pooled testing program at the high school, which is set to begin on February 22. The pool testing program will be focusing on students participating in high school athletics and extra-curricular activities as well as consenting PreK-12 staff.
“During the week of March 1, we will begin to phase in other students. We are working closely with CIC Health as to the amount of support we will receive, which will determine how we phase in additional students. We will keep you informed of the process,” stated Doherty in the blog post.
February 22 also marks implementing a new hybrid model of learning at RMHS, splitting students up alphabetically instead of by grade level.
In regards to the start of the Fall 2 Season, Doherty admitted that there is an added challenge to starting fall sports this late in the year: the issue of snow accumulation on the track and fields.
“The decision to open up and remove snow on the High School fields and track is an operations issue and is under the decision of the Superintendent of Schools. In discussions with the Athletic Department, Facilities Department, DPW, and Town Manager, I have decided that we will not be clearing any snow off of the newly renovated Turf 2 throughout this season because any damage to that field would impact the warranty. Although it is not advised, we will be looking at ways that we can safely remove the snow from the track, and Turf 1,” stated Doherty in the blog post.
Doherty stated several challenges related to attempting to remove snow from the track and fields at the high school. The issues stem from a combination of factors, including the age of the track and fields, the cost related to removing snow in a way that would not damage either of the facilities, and the high school’s proximity to wetlands.
Turf 1 and the track, both 14 years old and not protected under warranty, are set to be replaced in 2023.
“Any damage done to the track and or field would result in the shutting down of the track for this spring track season and/or the likelihood that the football field would not be playable for next fall. In order for snow removal to occur on both the track and football field, the snow will need to be removed by a snowblower specifically designed for turf fields and tracks, not plowed. This process will take much longer and would be more costly. The approximate cost would be $5,000-10,000 per snowstorm for snow blowing alone. An additional cost would be incurred if the snow would need to be completely removed from the area,” stated Doherty.
Then there is the issue of where to put the snow once it is removed from the track and fields.
“During the snow removal process, because of conservation regulations, no snow can be blown near the wetlands located behind the visitors end zone and far sideline. In addition, snow could not be blown onto the bleachers due to the increased likelihood of the bleachers being damaged due to the weight of the excess snow. This means that there are limited areas where snow could be removed,” stated Doherty.
Then, of course, there is the added issue of actually using the facilities in the winter.
“We are concerned about the increased risk of injury on a frozen turf field and less than ideal conditions on the track. There is an increased chance of concussions and other injuries when the field surface is much harder than normal,” stated Doherty.
Doherty states that he and his staff are currently pursuing snow removal options that will both minimize damage to the field while also giving students and staff “as safe a playing surface as possible.”
Thirteen reported COVID-19 cases affected RPS students and staff over the past two weeks. The case breakdown was: four student cases and one staff case at RMHS, one Parker case, three Wood End cases, one Barrows case, one Joshua Eaton case, and two cases that affected district employees.