High school sports may return in winter, with WIAA guidance

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While the Borderites welcomed their first group of students into the building this week, extra-curricular activities likely will not return until winter.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) has outlined five steps that need to be taken in order for schools to bring back sports and other extracurricular activities. Those steps are:

1. Governor approval.

2. Guidance from the Washington state Department of Health (DOH).

3. WIAA’s risk management consultants to review any recommendation by the governor and DOH.

4. School leadership commitment to bringing back sports. In a press release, the WIAA said most districts would consider sports once  students are able to return to school, even in a hybrid model. Coaches under collective bargaining agreements would also need to support sports returning.

5. The WIAA Executive Board to review schedule and guidelines.

According to a September 19 news release by the WIAA, high school sports and extracurricular activities can resume under governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan when the majority of students are back for some form of in-person learning.

Blaine school district superintendent Christopher Granger said in a best-case scenario high school and middle school students will return to a hybrid learning model by December or January.

The WIAA partnered with risk consultants Washington Schools Risk Management Pool and ClearRisk to devise steps, guidelines and considerations necessary for high school sports to resume this year after talks with the Governor’s Office and DOH.

The Governor’s Office recommendation to resume extracurricular activities when most students return for either hybrid or full-time learning could change as the office, health department and state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction stated they would periodically review guidelines as more information becomes available.

Granger said school districts and WIAA are trying to get some clarity on how much of the student body needs to return to reach this requirement. “It’s just one of those things we need to keep an eye on,” he said.

At the end of July, the WIAA executive’s board changed the 2020-21 sports calendar to account for the possibility of all fall sports being canceled. The board created four sanctioned seasons that moved all fall sports competitive seasons to be played in season 3 in early spring, with the option for low-risk sports; like cross country, golf and tennis, to be played in season 1 in the fall.

By this adjusted WIAA schedule, the winter sports season will begin December 28 if the required steps are met.

In a message to students on the WIAA website to answer the question of why Washington schools are not allowed to play sports this fall while other states are, WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said Washington is in a different environment than other states and that the WIAA is still planning to play all fall sports in the spring starting in late February. Hoffman said the state is in a terrible situation regarding high school athletics that nobody is at fault for.

The WIAA is learning from athletics associations of states that are playing fall sports to see how it can prevent and respond to outbreaks. Last week, the WIAA hosted a panel with athletics directors from Utah who spoke about Covid-19 protocols for things like transportation, fans, ticketing, and other related topics. A link to the conference can be found on the
WIAA website.

“The WIAA is fully committed to working with the partners previously mentioned to give students every opportunity to participate and enjoy the value of education based athletics,” Hoffman said.

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