Halftime Show Stopper at Monarch Stadium in Glen Dale
MOUNDSVILLE — Although a few students used Monarch Stadium’s field to toss the football during halftime Friday night, the field was unusually quiet — and empty.
Marshall County Schools canceled its “Middle School Night” — and all other halftime band performances — after 37 band students were hospitalized Thursday for falling ill after practicing during a period of high heat and humidity.
“Since it just happened (Thursday), there could be some hydration issues,” said district Superintendent Jeffrey Crook before Friday night’s game against Preston.
Crook said the district was still trying to figure out how it could reschedule the middle school band performance.
But with only two home games left in the season — one being homecoming Sept. 21 and the other senior night Oct. 26 — officials were unsure how that might work.
“They worked extremely hard,” Crook said. “We want to give them that opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Crook spent much of his day Friday talking with faculty and staff about the event that sent students from John Marshall and Sherrard and Moundsville middle schools to three hospitals. Between 125-130 students had been practicing at Monarch Stadium around 11 a.m. Thursday when more than three dozen of them had heat-related symptoms that required hospitalization.
Although the heat index was high Thursday, Crook said it fell within the guidelines of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission for sanctioned athletic activities. Band is considered one of those activities. Crook said he was not sure what the actual heat index was, or what the guidelines call for.
However, he said, the new artificial turf at the stadium — which contains synthetic materials such as rubber and plastic — is believed to be one of the factors that led to students getting sick. The surface temperature on those fields can be significantly higher than the air temperature, officials said. The district installed the turf over the summer during the first phase of a $9 million stadium renovation project.
“We need to re-evaluate how the turf adds a different dynamic,” he said.
Another issue, Crook said, was that students did not have enough access to water during practice.
“Everyone is taking accountability,” he said. “We just can’t have a situation where there’s not enough fluids or when fluids are arriving late.”
Crook had said Thursday that water was limited. Most of the water during the event — which was held to let middle school band students practice with the high school band students before Friday night’s scheduled activities — was brought by students.
“We need more water,” he said. “We need to preplan better when students are taken out of the buildings.”
Crook said one of the issues is that the concession stands that could have supplied that water are out of commission. Those stands are expected to be completed by November, which will help those who are attending spring sports activities.
When students became ill Thursday, staff from nearby Moundsville Middle School brought water, Gatorade and juice to the stadium to try to get students rehydrated. Some students also went into the air conditioned field house, while others sat in the back of police and sheriff’s cruisers as emergency responders arrived.
Other students started to feel the effects of the heat even after they returned to the school buildings. That left emergency responders scurrying to multiple sites when the calls to Marshall County 911 started coming in.
Crook said school officials will meet with members of the Marshall County Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency early next week for a debriefing on the event.
“We will work with them to see how we can do things better,” he said.
More than 10 emergency agencies from three counties used 16 ambulances to transport the students to WVU Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and Wheeling Hospital. Most of the students were treated and released within a few hours, hospital officials reported. One student had to be observed longer and originally was reported to be admitted overnight to OVMC. However, Karin Janiszewski, spokeswoman for OVMC, said Friday that the student actually was discharged late Thursday evening.
Crook said most of the students seemed to be OK on Friday.
“The students are pretty good,” he said. “We don’t seem to have any ill effects.”