CHESTER — Athletic Director Ben Stehura said so far the West Geauga Local School District has remained consistent with its participation in sports due to following COVID-19 health and safety protocol and through their partnership with University Hospitals.

“Our partnership with UH and especially our athletic trainer, Sam Adkins, has helped with contact tracing and being in contact with the Geauga County Board of Health, and we’ve had a very successful fall season,” Mr. Stehura said during the Oct. 26 Board of Education meeting. In following the district’s safe restart plan, he said he expects these trends to continue as they transition into the winter sports season.

West Geauga reported its first staff case of COVID-19 on Oct. 22 since the start of in-person instruction on Sept. 8 and had six active onsite staff cases as of Monday, according to their COVID-19 dashboard. The district has reported one case of COVID-19 in the student body. The single case is an all-remote student, according to the dashboard. The district opened remotely on Aug. 18.

Mr. Stehura said the athletic department is working to implement additional precautions, like cashless ticketing and consistent checkups with students, to reduce risk of spreading the virus.

“[We’re] working right now to go to HomeTown Ticketing, which is a cashless ticketing platform that will allow us to generate revenue and not have to handle cash,” he said, adding that the department will work closely with UH physicians, especially during cold and flu season, to ensure students can get efficient access to care and return to school and sports as quickly and safely as possible.

With ticketing, he said the department is planning limited seating for indoor sporting events in adherence to Gov. Mike DeWine’s mandate for 15-percent capacity seating. He said this allows 131 seats for the high school gymnasium.

Athletes are included in this number, he said, explaining that plans are in the works for potential triple-header basketball games where the freshman, JV and varsity teams all play the same night.

Plans currently include staggering fans based on what games they come to support. For example, he said spectators for the JV game would leave after to make space for the varsity game. He added that tickets could be limited to two tickets per player per team.

He added that with the help of Jim Kish, director of public relations and development, the district has been streaming sporting events to give spectators alternative access.

“We’ve gotten up to 2,000 views on some of our games,” he said. “We average between 400 and 500, and we’ve been, I think, as high as 275 views real time.”

From the competitive standpoint, Mr. Stehura said the district has seen a “phenomenal” fall season with three conference championships.

He said the volleyball team won their first conference championship for the district, going 11-1 during their regular season and heading into playoffs 1-1 before winning a home playoff game.

He said the boys cross country team won a conference title and had just finished runner-up in sectionals, adding that the girls’ varsity soccer team also won a conference title for the second year in a row. As of last week’s board meeting, he said the team was 2-0 in the playoffs and up at halftime in a game during the meeting. The girls ended up winning the Division I district title on Oct. 30.

“Our golf and tennis teams were much improved this year,” Mr. Stehura added. “Our numbers are up in participation for them as well.”

The next West Geauga Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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