By Samantha McDonnell
WESTFIELD - Following a week of canceled football games for the Westfield and Brocton communities, the football field will stay dark until next fall. The Westfield Board of Education approved a cancellation for the remainder of the season for the varsity football team, which is combined with Brocton.
Board President Jeffrey Greabell opened Monday's meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Damon Janes, a junior at Brocton who was injured and subsequently died due to an injury sustained while playing for the Westfield-Brocton team. Greabell thanked the students and community for their strength over the past week.
"We're devastated by this tragedy and we're grieving the loss with the entire Brocton community," said Greabell. "Our entire staff should be commended for their professionalism and strength."
During the new business portion of the agenda, Greabell brought up a recommendation from Superintendent David Davison to cancel the remainder of the season for the varsity team.
He said the time away from the sport will provide a chance to heal for everyone.
"I would like to commend our coaches, football players and their families for their continued strength and conviction during what has been one of the worse times we have ever experienced. Our hearts are truly broken and our thoughts and prayers continue to be directed to Damon's family, classmates, his friends and his teammates. This is a time that is sacred and should be protected. Grief, while shared, is unique to each of us.
"We are not giving up Damon's legacy. We are taking time to heal. Our players need time to grieve and have time to be together away from the lights and games for a while. We have notified Section 6 that Westfield-Brocton varsity football team will not return to the game field for the remainder of the season," he concluded.
Marie Edwards, board member, said the district has been through a football tragedy in the past and at least two current board members have been affected by a football tragedy.
"We are living proof we can do this," she said. "I also have to say I, too, initially thought this was very quick and it was too soon to make some kind of decision. It's a very hard decision to make either way. You can't make (students) go out there and play."
Board Member Brenda Backus said from feedback she has personally received, the team does not want to play out the rest of the season.
"If the players are not safe, then I agree wholeheartedly with this recommendation. If your mind is not in the game and your heart is not in the game, you're going to get hurt," Backus said, citing the district's main concern is safety.
Resident Barry Underwood addressed the football cancellation as an agenda item during the public comment portion, prior to the vote.
"This tragedy of Damon Janes was felt by our whole community as we all know. Having two sons that played football from midget football up to high school, I think about these kids that did the same thing," said Underwood. "If (the players) did tell you they were willing to cancel their season they're probably not telling the truth. I think canceling the season for the Westfield varsity football is a big mistake. I think Damon Janes, although I did not know him personally, he loved football. It's probably the last thing he wants to see."
The board approved the motion unanimously.
In other matters, the board of education tentatively approved a Spanish Club trip to Costa Rica during the spring break of 2015.
The board also appointed James Ruch and Maggie Paternosh as substitute food service workers, and Jordan Nicholson as a certified substitute teacher. Kayleigh Cole was appointed as an uncertified substitute teacher.