A divided Covington City School Board will allow Covington High School student-athletes to participate in the Virginia High School League’s winter sports season while attending school virtually.

In a vote conducted Monday night, the Covington City School Board approved this measure by a 3-2 vote.

School board member Tonya Jones and Chairwoman Tamala Preston, who were both attending via teleconferencing, voted no, while Vice Chairman Bert Baker and members Jonathan Arritt and Erika Hunter voted in favor of participation.

The vote was an uneasy one as each school board member stated that their top priority was the safety of everyone during the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Superintendent Melinda Snead-Johnson emphasized multiple times Monday night that athletics should not be taking place while the students are attending school 100 percent virtually.

“I’m sorry, and I know this is something that people don’t want to hear,” Snead-Johnson said while expressing her opposition to participation in sports at this time.

Jones and Preston echoed Snead-Johnson’s sentiments. Both stated that the safety of everyone takes priority and that participation in athletics should only take place when it is 100 percent safe to do so.

Baker and Arritt shared their feelings that they hate to see student-athletes lose out on any potential seasons that could be had.

They also agreed with the belief that safety should be paramount and that participation in athletics should be done in the safest manner possible.

Hunter, the swing vote on the issue, was conflicted on the subject.

“I’m torn. I want the kids to play, but I’m safety first,” she said repeatedly prior to her affirmative vote.

Later in the meeting, CHS Athletic Director Charity Hale led a discussion with the school board regarding how to handle the logistics to pull off participation in the winter season while students attend 100 percent virtual school.

She stated that this will be a tough endeavor, but it can be pulled off if everyone strictly adheres to all safety protocols that are and will be put into place.

Hale also emphasized, “I will be strict on this. If I feel it is not safe to practice, we will not practice. If I feel it is not safe to play, we will not play.”

Hale’s declaration was met with approval from the board and Snead-Johnson.

Near the conclusion of Hale’s presentation on how to pull off CHS’ participation in the winter season, Hunter’s self-conflict came to the forefront.

“I don’t want to vote yes anymore; I want to change my vote,” she said.

Hunter, who cited still being torn and conflicted on whether or not it was safe for the students to participate, expressed her desire to rescind her vote.

Her declaration brought the meeting to a halt while Snead-Johnson, Baker and Arritt researched Robert’s Rules of Order to find the proper protocol to proceed.

After an extended time of research, Baker announced that Hunter would have to confirm that she was rescinding her vote and make a motion of reconsideration.

Baker then gave Hunter some time to think on if she wanted to make those actions.

After some time, Hunter, while still conflicted on her feelings, stated, “I’ll still go with yes.”

When her second vote ensured that a majority approved participation in winter sports while in 100 percent virtual school, the school board then went into closed session.

The Covington City Public Schools Return to Participation Plan was discussed. Key components were:

— Core indicator in red of either locality equals no events;

— Core indicator in orange of either locality equals activities can proceed with no fans;

— Core indicator in yellow, green or dark green equals activity can proceed with no fans;

— No fans are allowed at any games under 25-person limit on gatherings (If the 25-person limit were to be listed, the Pioneer District would make a decision at a later date);

— Decisions will be made on Mondays by 12 noon in regard to the status of each week’s activities;

— Practice decisions will be made based on the school metrics and local health department recommendations;

— Health screening and temperature checks will be conducted for all participants;

— No locker room usage;

— Masks are required at all times except for participants that are actively, vigorously exercising;

— No spectators or fans;

— Only school event staff, school administrators, media, personnel and participants (players, coaches, officials) are allowed.

The CCPS Return To Participation Plan will soon be available on the CCPS website.

All CHS athletic contests can be livestreamed via the NFHS network.

Hale stated that this gives parents and families an option to see the games/activities.

Links will be embedded into school athletic calendar for CHS.

A monthly pass comes at a price of $10.99, while an annual pass is $69.99.

The following personnel resignations were accepted by the school board Monday:

— Crystal Crookshanks, paraprofessional;

— William Robert Withrow, bus driver/custodian.

The following subject was discussed during delegations Monday:

— Steve Dressler addressed the school board in regard to ongoing concerns involving the Joint School Services Committee and the process of merging Covington City and Alleghany County Public Schools.

The following item was approved during new business:

— A stipend option which will see full-time employees receive $1,000 and classified employees will receive $500.