Cape stands firm: No spring sports at Beacon, Mariner

Other area middle schools start practices April 12
March 3, 2021

At the Feb. 25 school board meeting, Cape Superintendent Bob Fulton reiterated his recommendation that district middle schools not play spring sports in 2021, while other area middle schools are set to start practices April 12.

“I am a proponent of students remaining active; I’m a proponent of athletics and students exercising, teamwork and commitment, and everything that comes along with it,” Fulton said. “So it was a really extremely difficult decision for me to recommend that we take a pause, not just in fall and winter, but also this spring for middle school athletics.”

Fulton said he discussed the possibility of playing with the district athletic director, and principals at Beacon and Mariner middle schools, but concluded that too many challenges made it impossible for the district to handle. Other districts are discussing middle school spring sports, he said.

Both Beacon and Mariner middle schools typically see more than 200 athletes playing spring sports, Fulton said. Coaches would have to ensure all social distancing protocols are followed, and not all coaches are district employees, so additional training would be needed, he said.

Transportation is the biggest issue, Fulton said. Typically, two shuttle buses are needed at Mariner and one at Beacon to take students home after practices. Shuttles would also be needed before the end of the school day to bring students to school for practice each day, he said. 

Carrying students to and from games would require buses, and there is a 22-student limit on each bus due to COVID-19 protocols. For track and field, which has 80 to 100 athletes per team, Fulton said, 10 buses would be needed to bring both teams to the high school for a home meet.

Bus drivers are hard to find, and quarantining has been an issue. When a bus driver has COVID or has had to quarantine, that has usually resulted in no transportation to school for students who ride that bus, Fulton said. 

For all those reasons, he said, “I just don’t think it’s a wise decision to move forward with middle school sports this year for a three-and-a-half-week season. We would have additional buses available if we did not provide as many in-person opportunities for our students, including five days a week for our elementary school students.”

Middle school sports will take place in the 2021-22 school year, Fulton said, regardless of the situation or level of social distancing protocols in place.

Cape district middle school athletes have not played sports since winter 2020, and middle school athletes who play spring sports have not played since spring 2019. Cape High athletes played fall and winter sports under COVID-19 precautions, and began practices for spring sports March 1.

In a March 1 email, Sussex Academy Director of Athletics Steve Bastianelli said local middle schools playing spring sports include Sussex Academy, Milford, Chipman, Woodbridge, Millsboro, Georgetown, Selbyville, Dover Central and Seaford.

“The schools involved decided we would begin after spring break, April 12, have three weeks of training, and then a four-week season,” Bastianelli said.

Sussex Academy middle schoolers did play in the fall, but not winter.

“We played in the fall, and it was a real challenge,” Bastianelli said. “The only schools that had teams were Milford, Seaford and us. Hopefully the spring will work out better.”

Milford Central Academy Athletic Director Ryan Winkleblech said in a March 1 email, “We are very excited about providing this opportunity for our middle-level students. It’s going to be a heavy lift, but we are up to the challenge.”

Beacon Middle student launches petition

Beacon Middle eighth-grader and baseball player Jaxon Clampitt, who hasn’t been able to play school ball since he was in sixth grade, launched a petition on behalf of Beacon and Mariner students.

“Last year, many kids including myself, missed out on the opportunity to play sports,” Jaxon wrote in the petition’s introduction. “Now, once again, our season is being canceled due to issues that we think we can help with! Sports are what we love and we don’t want to miss an opportunity to help the Cape school district with future sports goals. We feel many people are willing to help.”

Jaxon’s mother, Melissa Clampitt, said she loves the Cape district and all of its teachers, and is willing to work with other parents to help middle school students have spring sports.

“We don't know where this will lead but we have to at least try,” Melissa said. “We have to try to offer support and see if we as parents can come up with solutions for transportation, funding and volunteer manpower for the time it takes to handle all the protocols.”

To sign the petition, go to and search for “Middle School Student: Middle School Spring Sports.”

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