OLYMPIA — Schools are on track to return to in-person learning in the fall. What that means for high school sports remains to be determined, but there’s hope that sport will be included in the package.
Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced Thursday during a Zoom conference from the Capitol building that the state is planning on reopening schools in the fall, pursuant to health outcomes with regards to COVID-19.
Reykdal said, with the reopening of schools, he expects fall sports to also return. However, he added that no framework has been put in place yet to ensure that happens in a safe manner.
“Sports are a very complete package for a lot of students around what it means to be engaged and successful in schools,” Reykdal said. “So we expect to get there, we expect fall sports to be available, just as we do fall opening for school and academics. That guidance is not part of this at this time, we’re going to keep working on that — right away. We hope to have that guidance out here in the next several weeks, but that could take a little bit longer.”
Schools were closed in March in response to the coronavirus outbreak as steps were taken to prevent the virus’ spread. One of the consequences of that was the cancellation of high school spring sports, which included baseball, softball, track and field, golf, girls tennis and boys soccer.
Snohomish County entered Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase reopening plan Friday, meaning limited practices are now allowed. Teams can begin playing games in Phase 3, provided the number of people at one game does not exceed 50.
But while Reykdal believes sports are on track to resume in time for the fall season, he said no announcement about that is imminent.
“Sports is one of those very specific areas that we put into contemplation,” Reykdal said. “We could not get their own guidance right now. The WIAA (the governing body for the state’s high school sports) is in partnership here, they’ve got a real commitment to this and I think they’ve built an initial framework that may make some sense. But given this guidance, we also might be able to simplify it.
“We’re going to continue to work with the Department of Health on this,” Reykdal continued. “There’s some limited activity available already under the Governor’s (Jay Inslee) proclamation for some community-based groups to use our schools. But high school athletics, middle school athletics, supported by and in coordination with the school districts, it does not have guidance at this time for fall. We’re going to keep working through that, that will be one of our very next things.”
Fall sports include football, tennis and cross country for boys; soccer, swimming, volleyball and cross country for girls.
Football is of particular interest, given the sport’s popularity, the high level of physical contact, and the large number of players and coaches who comprise a team. For example, the Lake Stevens Vikings, who reached the Class 4A state quarterfinals last year, listed 69 players and 13 coaches on their roster.
“You mention football, there certainly are some sports more conducive than 50-100 people on a sideline packed together, and certainly a line of scrimmage,” Reykdal said. “So it kind of comes down to some of that stuff, it’s, ‘How often is there contact?’ The Department of Health will once again drive most of that regulation.”