April 10, 2020
To Our Community,
We miss our students very much and know that they have lost a lot this year. I know that there is a lot of controversy and communication in the community regarding the decision that I made to not light the baseball field up this evening, and I want to clarify the reasoning behind this decision. News came to me by a school administrator around 7:00 p.m. Thursday, April 9, that our baseball coach wanted to light the baseball field up Friday evening at 8:30 p.m. to honor our baseball seniors. I was told that the softball field lights didn’t work, but the lights on the baseball field would represent all the seniors who didn’t get to play their season. As part of what I was told, jerseys would be hung on the fence line and photos would be taken. It was my understanding this meant with students, but after communicating with the coach, I found out that was not the intent. I know our coach loves our students and only wanted to show them love for all they have lost. When I first received this communication, I was told that parents were asked to come to the field and stay in their cars and stay 6 feet apart and the field would be lit up for 20 minutes and 20 seconds. My concern, and that of the principal, was that students and families would not remain in cars for a whole 20 minutes and 20 seconds and that others in the community may also want to come to the field to honor our students and we would cause the probability of people gathering together to be much higher than we need right now as the COVID-19 numbers are peaking.
Happy Top is not school property and we need to make sure we are following the rules of our community. When I got the first call, I reached out to Judge Executive Chuck Caudill, and I told him of the plan. He was also concerned about the possibilities of people getting out of their cars. I asked him if there was a way we could have people drive up by the fields, loop around, and go back down out of the park. He said we could, but his concern was that there have been many days when the sheriff has had to ask our youth to not park downtown because they are getting in cars with each other. He shared that he was afraid that after people looped out of the park, they would go congregate somewhere else. He said that he would be glad to go turn the lights on and leave them on if we wanted him to do that, but I asked him if maybe we could save this for another week or two when the spike of the curve goes down and we may be able to drive through, honk our horns, and really celebrate our kids. He agreed with me that in a week or two this might be a possible solution. Judge Executive Caudill did not shut this activity down. He and I are working hard together to ensure the safety of our community. I respect him and the decisions he has made for the community, and I want to continue to work together to not put our people into situations that may cause us problems.
Today I met with our middle high school principal and counselors and we are planning some special activities for our seniors. We also want to showcase all our athletes and academic teams that that have lost end of the year competitions and entire seasons. Our math counts team and academic team was just about to head to state finals, FBLA and HOSA were about to compete in state competitions, our archery team didn’t get to shoot their state competition and have the opportunity to go to national competitions, our track team just got a new coach and was getting things rolling, our tennis team hasn’t gotten to compete at all, and all of our kids are facing losing something that is important to them. Our teachers are working hard to make face to face connections virtually with our kids and we are trying to keep the academic piece going. We are working hard to feed lunches to every child 18 and under in the community. We are not doing everything right and we know that, but I can promise you that we love our students, we miss them, and we want to do good things for them.
We want to do more, and tonight I sent an email to the coaches to connect with us if they have activities to recognize their teams. We are open to ideas from anyone, and are actually in the middle of something very special for our seniors that was suggested by a community member and has community participation. But, when we plan things, we have to do it in a way that will keep people safe, not create the potential for large gatherings, and that will not cause one or more group to feel left out over the other. All our children are important to us.
Even with all I have explained here there are many more factors that went into this decision. I know that not everyone will agree it was the right call. I make decisions daily that affect a lot of people, and the health and safety of all come first. I can assure this community that everyone in the Lee County School district loves the children that we have not seen in a long time, and I can only do what I think is right given the circumstances that are available at the time.
Lee County Schools