School Board hears more about ESports

By Ruthann Carr



After thanking Board Member Brenda Pace (Palmyra) for her eight years of service, the Fluvanna County School Board got schooled on ESports (Electronic Sports) at Wednesday’s (Dec. 11) meeting.

Teacher Aaron Grubbs oversees the pilot program Fluvanna is taking part in.

ESports is recognized by the Virginia High School League as a sport, Grubbs said.

According to the Parents Guide to High School, ESports is put out by PlayVS, the official platform for the sport: “ESports takes video gaming to another level with organized competitive gameplay between two teams, governed by its own strict set of rules and guidelines. The difference is comparable to a pick-up basketball game at a park versus a varsity high school basketball game “

Grubbs said most of the students involved in ESports would not go out for another team sport.  He said ESports offer an alternative to physical sports and teaches many of the same social skills as other competitive sports, Grubbs said.

Grubbs listed the benefits as:

  • Students are having fun;
  • Students are learning leadership skills and team skills;
  • Students have the potential to earn scholarships.
  • ESports connects to students that may not be involved in other after-school activities.

Twenty students paid a $64 fee to take part in the competitive gaming sport this fall. The next session starts in February.

When the subject of ESports came up in the November meeting, Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) said she was concerned about the Teen rating for two of the games used: “Rocket League and League of Legends.”

The ratings warn of “violence, blood, potential nudity and alcohol use,” Johnson said at that meeting.

Grubbs said those warnings related to some of the characters students could play as and he banned using those.

Johnson said she sees the benefits of ESports, but still has concerns.

Pace said ESports make a player “think about what you’re doing and work out challenges they present.”

Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) said she imagined if ESports weren’t available, some students would be more likely to skip school.

“I think it’s a good thing if it encourages kids to come to school,” Stewart said.

Neither Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) nor Andrew Pullen (Columbia) attended Wednesday’s meeting.

Stewart said she’d like to hear from the students who play ESports who were in the audience.

When the Board asked one of the students if he would be playing video games at home after school if he couldn’t play ESports, he answered, “No, I don’t have the infrastructure at home.”

The student, who did not give his name, said ESports “provides me with a place to come after school to feel safe and see familiar faces who I know I have a lot in common with.”

The other student, who also did not give his name, said: “It allows me to meet people I didn’t know I had anything in common with. It gives me more social interaction. It’s been a good thing for me – a positive thing.”

Johnson suggested parents of students who are playing sign a waiver. They did not have to in the fall session.

The Board agreed to continue to talk about it.

When Superintendent Chuck Winkler gave his report, some of the highlights were:

  • The schools are working with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to bring a hunter safety course to Fluvanna;
  • SunTribe Solar continues to make progress. Its anticipated Spring ’20 of “lights on” at Carysbrook is getting closer to being a reality;
  • The Board of Supervisors approved the carryover funds to be used in transportation. The schools will begin the build process of two new buses. Officials would also like to explore the possibility of equipping a few of our buses with AC using some insurance funds;
  • FCHS would like to move graduation to Friday, May 22, 2020.

When it came to moving graduation, the Board suggested the next time that type of decision is considered, they ask parents for their input.

When the Board recognized Pace with accolades and gifts, she thanked them.

“When I came in at 2012 I had to learn quickly to get thicker skin,” Pace said referring to budget deficits at the time that led to cuts in teacher hours and pay.

Pace said she hoped to continue being involved in the schools but planned to spend most of her time with her 16 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

James Kelley was voted to take over her seat. His first meeting will be Jan. 13.

During public comments, high school math teacher Lori Hoffman talked about the need for math substitute teachers – particularly at the high school.

Because of the shortage, teachers have to use their planning period to oversee classes where the teachers are out.

“Three teachers, since May, have lost 24 of their planning periods,” Hoffman said.

She suggested the administration look into ways to compensate teachers for that time, “as we are, in fact, acting as substitutes.”

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