The Idaho High School Activities Association released guidelines Thursday for the opening of the fall sports season.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of high school spring sports, the current plan is to open fall practices Aug. 10 as scheduled, but with a detailed list of recommendations and safety considerations.
The document notes that every recommendation and guideline is “based on directives from the Governor’s office, the Idaho State Board of Education or the Idaho High School Activities Association Board of Directors.”
The IHSAA listed four requirements for school districts.
1. All schools who host events are required to have a plan in place for fans and team’s attendance. This must include reference to the Governors reopening guidelines for Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each district’s school board, in conjunction with guidance from the local health department must approve the plan before games can be hosted.
a. School districts may use the Governors reopening guidelines or come up with guidelines of their own, in conjunction with guidance from the local health department.
2. A transportation plan, when applicable, for practices and games.
3. Plan to deal with positive test of student athlete or coach involved directly with the program formulated in conjunction with the local school board and local health department.
4. Return to participate plan formulated in conjunction with the local school board and local health department.
The remainder of the document details suggestions for restarting sports as developed by the National Federation of High Schools and IHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committees. School districts can also implement or come up with their own plans.
“The NFHS and IHSAASMACs believe it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the nation to return to physical activity and athletic competition. It is not likely that ALL students will be able to return to and sustain – athletic activity at the same time in all schools and regions in Idaho. There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held. While we would typically have reservations regarding such inequities, the NFHS SMAC endorses the idea of returning students to school-based athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done safely and in alignment with reopening policies set forth by the local school district and local Department of Health.”
Some highlights for the list of guidelines, with the top one likely being the most important as school districts throughout Idaho work out plans for students to return to campus or continue online classes in the fall.
-When a school, schools, or district are closed due to COVID-19, all training, practice, and contests for the school(s) or district should also be canceled.
-Cloth face coverings are recommended for athletes, with exceptions for swimming, distance running or other high intensity aerobic activity. Coaches and other officials must wear face coverings.
-Preventative measures – masks, distancing, hygiene — are the new normal until a cure, vaccine or very effective treatment is readily available, or so-called “herd immunity” is confidently reached.
-Teams are encouraged to practice and condition outdoors and limit time spent indoors as much as possible.
-All coaches and students should be screened for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 prior to a workout. Screening includes a temperature check.
-No high-fives or fist bumps.
-Students should have their own water bottle. No sharing of water bottles.
- Cleaning schedules set for all facilities and equipment.
-The question of who can attend events is broken down into three tiers: Tier 1 is Essential (athletes, coaches, officials, event staff, medical staff, security). Tier 2 is Preferred (media). Tier 3 is Non-Essential (vendors, spectators). Tier 3 is contingent on current gathering restrictions.
-Sports are labeled High Risk (football, competitive cheer), Moderate Risk (soccer, volleyball), and Lower Risk (cross country, swimming) with guidelines detailed for each sport and risk level.
-There is also a risk and liability form that parents must sign.
Football teams can play their first games on Aug. 28. Swimming and volleyball can open play on Aug. 26, with soccer and cross country able to schedule games after 10 days of practice.