Mt. Lebanon says it won’t play PIAA tournament game vs. Eastern Pa. team because of coronavirus

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 12:46 PM


Mt. Lebanon School District administrators, concerned about coronavirus, informed the PIAA that its boys basketball team wouldn’t participate in Wednesday night’s playoff game against Eastern Pa. opponent Cheltenham.

As a result, the PIAA postponed the second-round game until 7 p.m. Thursday at Chambersburg to give the PIAA “some time to evaluate all the information being provided by both schools and the (Pennsylvania) Department of Health,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said.

However, Mt. Lebanon seems unlikely to play Thursday either.

The school district sought advice from the Allegheny County Health Department, which advised the team not to participate in Wednesday’s game, according to a letter athletic director John Grogan sent to parents. The team won’t compete unless the ACHD considered it safe, said Mt. Lebanon spokesperson Cissy Bowman.

Cheltenham, a suburban Philadelphia school district in Montgomery County, announced Monday that its building would be closed through Friday for deep cleaning and disinfecting. Cheltenham administrators said the action was taken because a district parent was the caregiver to a patient with a presumptive case of covid-19.

In his letter to parents, Grogan said: “The health and well-being of our students, staff, and community are of the utmost importance to us. After fully considering the totality of the information our District received from the Cheltenham School District, we consulted with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) who advised the district not to participate in the game.

“After speaking to the PIAA leadership, the Mt. Lebanon School District administration has made the decision to not send our team, coaches, and other personnel to compete in the game,” Grogan added. “In that we cannot ensure the health and safety of our students, coaches, and community, the District administration could see no other viable scenario to permit our team’s participation.”

There are 15 presumptive positive or confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania, according to the Pa. Department of Health. Nine are in Montgomery County.

Cheltenham has no intentions of forfeiting, athletic director Suni Blackwell said.

“In collaboration with the PIAA, the district stands firm on wanting the game to go on as planned,” Blackwell said in an email. “The decisions made with regard to covid-19 had nothing to do with students or faculty being exposed. Though we weren’t mandated to, in an abundance of caution, we decided we’d take a number of days to engage in deep cleaning and follow CDC’s recommendation of sanitizing high-contact areas. While engaged in deep cleaning, the district has also been creating the foundation for our staff to support a quality remote learning experience.

“We have no intention of withdrawing from this tournament and will follow PIAA bylaws,” Blackwell added. “Though Mt. Lebanon has stated its refusal to play, Cheltenham will not be forfeiting.”

Mt. Lebanon statement

“Our boys basketball team was scheduled to compete against Cheltenham High School’s team on Wednesday, March 11 in Chambersburg as part of the PIAA playoff structure. The Cheltenham School District recently released information about their response to the covid-19 virus because of exposure within their community.

“To reduce or mitigate the possible exposure to their students and staff, the Superintendent of the Cheltenham School District communicated to his community that the Cheltenham School District has closed its schools for the week, suspended field trips through April 13, and are prohibiting outside groups from utilizing its facilities. Although the Cheltenham School District deemed it appropriate to continue participation in the PIAA playoff structure, the Mt. Lebanon School District does not under these circumstances.

“The health and well-being of our students, staff, and community are of the utmost importance to us. After fully considering the totality of the information our District received from the Cheltenham School District, we consulted with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) who advised the District not to participate in the game. After speaking to the PIAA leadership, the Mt. Lebanon School District administration has made the decision to not send our team, coaches, and other personnel to compete in the game. In that we cannot ensure the health and safety of our students, coaches, and community, the District administration could see no other viable scenario to permit our team’s participation.

“The District has communicated its position to the PIAA and is awaiting its response. It is our position that our team should not be disqualified from this game and tournament.

“We extend our support to the Cheltenham School District as it is reported to be dealing with an evolving covid-19 situation.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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