District superintendent misspoke about SCHSL start-up plans in board meeting


All our coronavirus coverage is free to the public. It’s the right thing to do as a public service to our community. If you find this article helpful or informative and want to support our continued coverage, please subscribe or support us with a tax-deductible donation.

To find all our coronavirus coverage, including helpful local resources and website links, click here.


Sumter School District superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox misspoke about the South Carolina High School League's plans for the start-up of fall sports and about its conditioning and weightlifting workouts at a school board meeting on Monday.

Martin-Knox said conditioning can't happen until Aug. 17, and that no one in the state is currently conditioning. It is practice that can start on Aug. 17, and the SCHSL has allowed schools to have weightlifting and conditioning at their own discretion for almost two months.

The district had not responded to questions about what took place during the meeting by press time despite several inquiries on Tuesday.

When asked by a school board member about the situation concerning athletics with the restart of school amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Martin-Knox said the South Carolina High School League said in a plan approved by its executive committee in a Zoom meeting last week that conditioning for fall sports could begin on Aug. 17.

"So we just received a notification from the South Carolina High School League that effective Aug. 17 -- and it's still up to the discretion of the superintendent -- that we can begin the conditioning of our athletes on Aug. 17," Martin-Knox said in the meeting, which is available on YouTube. "There were some other proposals put on the table by some other superintendents and athletic directors to flip the sports to make them less contact."

The plan that was passed pushed back the start of practice for all fall sports from July 31 to Aug. 17. Around the first of June, the SCHSL decided that schools could begin conditioning and weightlifting after shutting down the spring sports season for the 2019-20 school year in the middle of March. However, the league left it to the discretion of the schools or the districts as to when they wanted to begin what is called Phase 1.

Sumter School District has yet to allow any of its three high schools - Sumter, Crestwood and Lakewood - to begin Phase 1 workouts. Also, the other plan she mentioned was brought forth by Lexington District 1 to move low-risk sports to the fall and move football to the spring. It wasn't passed by the executive committee.

Martin-Knox was backed by district director of operations Samuel Myers.

"Athletic directors and coaches have been working to put together a plan that will assist with going into conditioning and practicing effectively and safely," Myers said. "All of our athletic trainers have been preparing as well, and we're just waiting until we can reach that point - Aug. 17 - so we can meet together; we're going to be meeting very soon so we can iron out the way we want things to look like. We'll be meeting with the high school athletic directors and the principals in order so we can view all the different things for safety and the plans that are out there so we can address this wholeheartedly and very safely. That's where we are right now until we meet where we going to try and come up with a plan that is going to be safe."

Board member Johnny Hilton then asked if he heard correctly about the start of conditioning.

"So the High School League has said they can't start fitness training until August," Hilton asked. "Is that what I heard, or did I misunderstand?

"You were right, Dr. Hilton, that's correct," Martin-Knox responded. "There were some districts that began practicing and because of some issues, what have you, related to the increase in the number of COVID cases, they put a halt to their practices. As you know, in Sumter School District, we never began practice because of the danger of being high risk. It's most important we keep students at the forefront of our decisions and their safety.

"So the High School League just last week released guidance indicating Aug. 17, based on the meeting, would be the day we could consider beginning conditioning, but it's still up to the discretion of the superintendents in the school districts."

"So to our knowledge, no high school is conducting conditioning at this time," Hilton asked.

"To the best of my knowledge, that would be correct," Martin-Knox asked. "And as I said, there were some districts that began, but they put on hold those conditioning practices for various reasons."

There are many districts that are currently having workouts, although they are still in Phase 1. Some districts did start and shut down and have yet to restart, while some started, shut down and have restarted.

East Clarendon High School in Turbeville began workouts on June 8. With the exception of taking the Fourth of July week off, it has continued to hold workouts.