Protocol developed for athletes training off school grounds
Westborough – At its Jan. 16 meeting, the School Committee unanimously approved a protocol to be followed by student athletes and teams in the district when they are training off of school grounds.
The protocol was developed as a result of an incident in the fall when a member of the Westborough High girls cross country team was struck by a motorist. At the time of the incident, the student athlete was with her team on a training run that was being held on the streets in town, not on school grounds.
Westborough Schools Superintendent Anne Towle said the girl has fully recovered from the injuries she suff ered when she was struck.
"In light of what happened in the fall, we felt it was necessary to have in writing what our expectations are regarding when it is okay to run on the streets in town and when running on the streets in town should be avoided," Towle said. "All of these procedures are already being followed, but we felt they should be in writing so they can be handed out at the start of each school year, at the start of each sports season."
The one-page protocol, which went into effect Jan. 7, focuses on running during inclement weather. The protocol prohibits athletes from running outdoors during snowstorms or following snowstorms during which the accumulation is at a level that prevents it from being cleared from sidewalks and forces it to be piled at a height that impairs both a runner's and driver's visibility.
The protocol also bans running during heavy rains, thunder and lightning storms, when temperatures are extremely low, or on excessively windy days. All of the conditions could put athletes running on public roadways at greater risk.
In addition, the protocol reminds coaches to have runners run in groups, but run single-file, avoid narrow roads with heavy traffic, run on sidewalks when possible or on the left side of roads, and remain alert for oncoming traffic
"The protocol is good to have," Westborough Director of Athletics Johanna DiCarlo said. "It consists of the rules and regulations that we follow and teach our athletes, and have done so for quite some time. Having it in writing, in a formal manner, is additionally comforting, however."
School Committee member Karen Henderson, noting that the protocol urges coaches to have runners wear reflective clothing, proposed requiring runners who are going to be training off school grounds to wear reflective vests when doing so.
The rest of the School Committee agreed with Henderson
" and unanimously voted in that requirement, which Towle said would be added to the protocol.
School Committee Chair Rod Jane asked about the cost of purchasing enough vests for every member of the cross country and track teams.
Towle said she didn't know what the cost would be but said the vests could be purchased with a portion of the $7,500 donation the School Committee had accepted from Roche Bros. supermarket chain earlier in the meeting. A stipulation of the donation was that it would be earmarked for athletics.
"Buying the vests will be a good use for some of the Roche Bros. donation," Towle said.
Towle also reiterated a previous concern she had for runners using routes that featured narrow, heavy-trafficked roads, especially in the Ruggles Street and Whitney Street area of town.
"We said earlier in the year that we didn't want High School athletes running in that part of town, but I noticed recently that the teams are training in those areas again," Towle said.
Jane said the School Committee will send the High School a letter emphasizing its desire that teams do not run in that area of town.
Towle said she had hoped the Department of Public Works (DPW) would be able to clear snow off of the High School track, which would allow runners to stay on school grounds when training, but DPW Director John Walden said equipment to do so could possibly damage the track.
Walden off ered instead, according to Towle, the DPW's services to clear the off -campus routes the teams use, and to make sure those routes remained plowed and passable for both motorists and runners.
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