CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — While the sounds of helmets colliding, the cleats kicking the ball and whistles confirming a touchdown can be heard under the Friday night lights, high school auditoriums are silent.
Performing arts students, teachers and parents are sounding the call for extra-curricular equity.
Marie Long, Matoaca High School Chorus Booster President, said COVID-19 guidelines set for performing arts are a lot stricter than the ones currently in place for sports.
“Not trying to discount anything with sports, we are just wanting the same opportunities that sports have,” Long said. “To be able to put on a performance and to be able to do what these kids love to do.”
Currently, Chesterfield County performing arts students, whether they are in band, choir or orchestra, are to practice under small five-to-ten person stationary group requirements. They must maintain a distance of ten feet apart with masks on at all times.
Long said these guidelines, developed by county risk management officials and based off of Governor Ralph Northam’s orders, were created in September 2020.
Since then, sports requirements were updated and changed to allow for games to occur, but Long said nothing has been upgraded for performing arts students.
“We are asking to be able to perform, but in order to do that, the numbers of five to ten need to be increased,” Long said.
She and other concerned parents and staff reached out to county representatives and Gov. Northam to address the issues with performing arts guidelines.
Long then created a social media petition that’s gained over 1,200 signatures to bring equality for performing arts in schools.
Long said she and other members of the community want to see equitable guidelines put in place so they can view their children and students perform again.
“They are missing out on their senior year just as much as those on the field.”
Long received a response from Chesterfield County’s Director of Risk Management, David Johnson, regarding her inquiry about why performing arts guidelines were not equal to sports.
“The safety considerations in place at CCPS for the performing arts activities are based on the guidance provided by VDH/VDOE, Governor’s Executive Orders and the CDC,” Johnson said. “I appreciate your perspective and understand your frustration with apparent differences in COVID-19 safety protocols between athletic programs and performing arts. However, there are differing protocols established for the various activities. The Virginia High School League (VHSL) is the principal sanctioning organization for interscholastic athletic competition among public high schools in Virginia and they have established COVID-19 protocols in compliance with current VDH/VDOE and CDC guidance.”
Johnson explained to Long “safety and health is our number one priority” going forward for the potential for new changes to performing arts guidelines.