SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) — The CDC is issuing new guidelines for extracurricular activities in schools, suggesting that many be canceled or held virtually with the surge in COVID cases. However, some disagree, saying these are the areas that take the most precautions.
According to the CDC, activities considered “high risk” include bands, choirs and sports like soccer and wrestling. Two years after overcoming the hurdles of the pandemic, some school programs like the band say staying together in person is best for students.
“When we were all virtual, it was really hard, it was really hard to teach a physical skill online,” said Zeb Bellon, director of groups at Santa Fe High School. “A group is a whole, so when the students are alone in their room, they don’t really have a group. I can help them individually with their instruments, but the goal is for them all to play together and make music together as a group.
According to new CDC guidelines, this could change if implemented here in New Mexico. As the state continues to hit new records for daily case counts, the CDC recommends in high-transmission areas, going virtual for “higher-risk” activities like band and choir or cancel them completely. However, some say this is unrealistic.
“We have a science related to music and the playing of instruments. It’s there,” Bellon said. “It was coordinated across many different schools and universities to ensure we could produce a safe experience for our students.”
Santa Fe Public Schools say they have taken every precaution. Some of these include spacing out students in large music rooms, as well as ordering specialist PPE for musicians.
“We purchased specific masks for the choir and for band and bell covers and anything instrument specific,” said April Pickrell, music education coordinator for Santa Fe Public Schools. are taking very great measures to ensure that students are safe. I think if we take that into consideration and if we all follow the rules and we all make sure the kids are safe, I don’t think removing the band, sports and choir is a good idea.
The CDC has also issued guidelines for high-contact sports like soccer and wrestling — which cannot go virtual. The New Mexico Activities Association says that while these new guidelines are concerning, it trusts state leaders to make the right decisions.
“We wore a mask in indoor sports. When the CDC sends out these guidelines, nationally I would say we may be one of only three states to wear masks when wrestling or wearing masks in basketball,” Sally said. Marquez, executive director of ANLAM. “I think our state is a little different and we’ve been following very strict COVID safety practices from the start.”
Principals also cite many other areas of the school where children can contract COVID, such as crowded stairwells and the dining room. With all of this in mind and the impact of the arts and athletics, school leaders hope that the mental wellbeing of students will also be taken into account.
“Sports, band, choir, speeches and debates or whatever you want to call it, these are the reasons children come to school in many cases,” Bellon said. “That’s why they’re here. It is the motivating factor that brings them to school, it helps them to interact with other students.
For activities considered low or intermediate risk — such as golf, diving, baseball and cross-country — the CDC recommends COVID screening at least once a week. So far, the state’s Department of Public Education has not said whether it will adopt the CDC’s new guidelines for extracurricular activities.