Godby principal faces dilemma after complaints of lack of social distancing

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By: Joey Lamar | WCTV Eyewitness Sports
May 4, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- With gyms closed, Godby High School provides the only publicly accessible track for people to work out.

However, some are taking the liberty too far and violating physical distancing guidelines. This presents Godby Prinicipal Desmond Cole with a moral decision: Should he keep the track open?

"I don't want to close the gate a keep people out who are trying to do the right thing," Cole said.

With Leon's track closed for construction because of the installation of new turf field, Godby is the only public track that serves the community.

"So many citizens that want to come locally and use the track the right way," Cole said. "Walk, run and do their own solitary exercises on the side, but then you have a few outliers who don't want to necessarily follow the CDC guidelines."

Those outliers are people who use the infield of the track for touch or flag football. Most of them say they are in college.

One athlete agreed to speak with WCTV, but did not want to be identified.

"We're trying to show that you can exercise during the quarantine," the player said, "Because it's kind of hard using our social distancing."

Sources tell WCTV recently that the crowds have swelled to a point where people grew concerned.

However, the most recent city commission report did not list Godby's address as one where police responded.

"Citizens are doing most of the police calling," Cole said. "They see unsafe gatherings. They are the ones typically calling law enforcement to see if they can disperse those groups."

On Sunday, there were several athletes playing touch football at GHS. They said they were never told they could not use the infield area.

"No sir," the player said. "We kind of linked up via group chat, social media, Facebook, Instagram. We all link up with the guys to put in the group chat."

"When we see them," Cole said, "We'll address it. Because it happens in the not-so-hot part of the day, at 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. or on weekends it's hard to address that kind of behavior."

As you walk into the track entrance, there is a sign that ask people to maintain social distancing while on the track. There is no sign telling people that use of the infield is prohibited.

"I understand what they are going through," Cole said, "But I also understand as an adult now what social distancing is and how crazy this disease is."

The athletes also claim they have been gathering on Sundays for the past six months. The athletes say they are just looking for a way to stay in shape and a way to relieve stress.

"We have to deal with people every day," the player said. "We go to the grocery store. We do practice social distancing at the grocery store and everywhere else, but out here, we come out here to have some fun."

Cole has the option to close the track, but he says that creates two problems; the first is the fence is not tall enough to prevent someone from climbing over.

"Our fence is only four-foot tall," Cole said. "So if someone really wanted to get on to the track or the playing field they could easily do that."

And the second: Closing the track punishes people who actually use the track for its intended purpose.

"I have an elderly couple that comes almost religiously," Cole said. "I have a family that has a disabled child and they push him around the track."

Principal Cole said there is not a breaking point where he would make the decision to close the track yet, but the school will continue to monitor the situation and they want citizens to call law enforcement if they see the gatherings grow too large.