THOMASVILLE — An amendment to an attendance policy for athletics at Thomasville schools will make it possible for students who are struggling to meet an 85% attendance requirement to participate in sports.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a waiver of the attendance standard for athletic participation will be in effect for the 2020-21 school year. The waiver will allow for 70% attendance versus the 85% attendance noted in the policy. The waiver ends June 30, 2021, and will then revert back to the established policy. Therefore, in order to be eligible for athletic participation in the 2021-2022 school year, students must have been in attendance for 85% of the previous semester.

The policy amendment, which passed by virtue of a 3-2 vote, was met with resistance from multiple board members, including Dee Stokes, who said the policy sends the wrong message to students who have not been regularly attending classes.

“I came to this meeting today for two reasons, and one was to vote down this policy,” Stokes said. “I think we’re sending the wrong message as a board, if we pass this policy, that athletics is more important than academics. I think that kids will get the wrong message that they can be late for work, don’t show up for work, and there’s no consequences for that. That’s the wrong message to send.”

TCS Superintendent Cate Gentry acknowledged that Stokes’s concerns were legitimate, but explained that attendance for some students has suffered due to circumstances related to the pandemic. For instance, some students have had to supervise the education of their younger siblings while parents work.

Despite these and other hindrances, Stokes mentioned core principles that prevented her from voting for the policy amendment.

“If a kid went to only 85% of their practices, I guarantee you that the coach would not play them,” Stokes said. “I understand COVID, I understand all of that, but I just think it’s sending the wrong message … primarily for athletics is what I think it comes down to. I’m not for that at all.”

Given a chance to the amendment, Gentry pointed to the realities of virtual education which have made attendance different in this era than in any other.

“I do mostly agree with some of the concerns Dr. Stokes has,” Gentry said. “I think, completely unintentionally, non-maliciously, there are kids who have suffered from some of the ambiguity in the way we’re taking attendance or not taking attendance.”

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.