Athletic directors from Wesco have formulated their own schedule for a return to play for high school sports during the 2020-21 school year.
The league announced Friday its plans for a three-season, Wesco-only schedule that would break away from current plans set forth by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. The first prep sports practices for Wesco would begin Feb. 22, three weeks later than the current date for the WIAA’s plan of Feb. 1.
“When we look at the current metrics for COVID, also the phased in approach we are using to open schools, and conversations with superintendents, Feb. 1 was just not a realistic date to start,” Everett School District athletics director Robert Polk said.
Traditional fall sports — football, cross country, girls soccer, volleyball, boys tennis and girls swim and dive — are first on the schedule, with practices starting Feb. 22 and competition March 1. The season would end April 3.
The WIAA currently has winter sports — basketball, wrestling and boys swim and dive — scheduled first.
Playing more outdoor sports early was a factor in Wesco’s decision to start fall sports first.
“(Outdoor sports) definitely have a better shot than basketball and wrestling do,” Polk said of an earlier start.
He added that many superintendents have been adamant about not starting indoor sports.
Still, indoor fall sports volleyball and girls swim and dive, and football, a high-risk sport despite being played outdoors, may need a little help to start on time in Wesco’s new plans.
“Hopefully in January we’ll see some new information from the department of health and we can work with our superintendents to see what we can do,” Polk said.
It’s yet to be determined what Wesco’s new schedule will mean for Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest football programs. The Wesco schools are football-only members of the Northwest Conference.
“We still gotta iron that out,” Polk said. “I know we’ve had some different conversations with the Northwest Conference. We have not firmly landed the plane on that yet.”
Spring sports — baseball, softball, golf, boys soccer, girls tennis and track and field — would follow fall sports. Practices for spring sports would begin March 29 and competition April 5. The season ends May 8.
Winter sports will close out the year. Practices would start May 3 and competition May 10. The season’s final day is June 12.
Wesco athletic directors will need to get approval from their superintendents and the WIAA before going forward with their plan. Wesco president Don Dalziel, athletics director of the Shoreline School District, will submit a form to the WIAA with Wesco’s proposed schedules.
The WIAA is set to look over proposals from leagues Jan. 4.
“All communications that we have heard is that nearly every recommendation or proposal from a league will be accepted as long as safety is being kept in mind,” Polk said.
WIAA president Mick Hoffman mentioned that same sentiment in a Zoom call with the Washington State Secondary Athletic Administrators Association on Wednesday.
“We really can’t think of any reasons we would deny (a request),” Hoffman said during the call. “I’m sure there will be some creativity that will challenge that thinking.”
Athletic directors in Wesco will decide if a sport will go on as scheduled three weeks prior to the start of each season.
Those decisions will be based on the COVID-19 benchmarks of cases per 100,000 residents in a county over a two-week period and percentage of positive tests in a county over a week, unless a change of those benchmarks is announced before Feb. 1.
Counties with over 75 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate above 5% are considered high risk. Counties in the high-risk category can only start intra-squad competition for low-risk sports — cross country, golf, swim and dive, tennis and track and field.
Moderate-risk counties, those with 25 to 75 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of less than 5%, can hold intra-squad competition low- and moderate-risk sports. Baseball, bowling, gymnastics, soccer, softball and volleyball are moderate-risk sports.
Counties with less than 25 cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of less than 5% can begin intra-squad play for all sports, including high-risk sports football, basketball, wrestling and cheerleading with contact.
Snohomish County’s cases per 100,000 residents currently sits at 422.4. It’s positivity rate is 16.5%.
Wesco athletics directors also laid out a backup plan, which includes alternate seasons for fall sports if they are unable to begin as scheduled.
Volleyball and girls swim and dive would be moved to the second season with traditional spring sports, and football, girls soccer, boys tennis and cross country would move to the final season of the school year with traditional winter sports.
“We’re trying to create as consistent of a plan as possible,” Polk said. “So once we make a change of a sport to a different season, we’re gonna stick with that, even if numbers change and everything else. We’re trying to avoid the roller-coaster, herky-jerky changes that we keep seeing.
“So we’re hopeful with a consistent decision matrix, it will provide some stability.”
If only one season can be played, it will be spring sports since they weren’t played last school year after the coronavirus pandemic started.