GRAFTON—According to the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, no marching bands will be permitted at West Virginia middle and high school football games this season.
WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan told WSAZ of Huntington that the decision was made on Sunday. He explained, however, that the situation remains fluid, and they will continue to look at the circumstances to better serve all student athletes, which includes band members.
As for dance teams, the WVSSAC does not manage them, but Dolan feels they shouldn’t be allowed to perform if bands can’t.
He also went on to say that the reason behind the decision to restrict band access is because of the limited number of fans allowed into football games due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.
Grafton High School band director Chris Rucker says he feels awful for his band members and is trying to stay positive after hearing the news.
“It will be strange and uncomfortable not being at a high school opening football game for the first time in 24 years,” Rucker stated. “I am heartbroken for these students as their leader and as a senior band parent. However, the Grafton High School band has always tried to approach things in a positive and productive way. We will keep moving forward and not allow the situation to define who we are. Let’s Go Bearcats!”
It has been reported that bands won’t be allowed to attend for at least the first two games, and there will be a re-evaluation at that time.
**Editor's Note: After the press deadline for our B section, which contains our sports page, the announcement was made that marching bands would be permitted at football games.
In a release Tuesday afternoon, Governor Jim Justice had this to say: "As a coach and someone who is in our schools all the time, I appreciate how much our extracurricular activities, including our marching bands, mean to our students, parents, and communities.
“Yesterday, the WVSSAC announced that our marching bands would not be able to perform at extracurricular activities this fall. This decision was made without my input.
“Today, I directed our medical experts to work with the WVSSAC and the Department of Education, and go back to the drawing board to find a safe way for our marching bands to do what they love to do: perform.
“I am now proud to announce that the WVSSAC and our medical experts have developed new guidelines for our marching bands to be able to perform on our football fields this fall.
“Our medical experts evaluated guidelines from the National Federation of High School Sports, and the West Virginia Bandmasters Association and put a plan together that keeps our band members socially distanced and as safe as possible, while allowing them to perform in the stadium on game days and allowing their families to watch their performances.
“The WVSSAC will release the new marching band guidelines this afternoon.”