The National Federation of State High School Associations hosted a virtual media session Monday to describe the approach to the 2020-21 high school sports as more than 20 state associations have modified their fall sports campaigns.
The NFHS reported 24 state associations have modified its high school sports calendars, 27 states have made no changes and six states: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington and Washington D.C. have rescheduled football from the fall season.
In an email the Missouri State High School Activities Association sent to school administrators July 15, Missouri remained scheduled for an Aug. 10 date of first practice.
Temperature screenings were among requirements in the MSHSAA reopening guidelines document. Citing the range of school resources NFHS executive director Karissa Niehoff said screening, not testing for COVID-19, will be required for schools.
“Where states have resources, if they have the appropriate medical professionals on site that can implement Covid testing. If they have the resources to do it, that might be appropriate for them,” Niehoff said. “We do recommend there is a way to screen kids on site through the schools.”
She added that tracing and surveys are effective precautions for schools.
“Looking at any preexisting conditions that might be related to cardiopulmonary concerns,” Niehoff said. “Flu-like symptoms. Have they been around people who have tested positive? A lot of what schools can do now is really thorough question-and-answer.”
The NFHS hosted a meeting Tuesday to discuss an approach for sports and activities for programs at virtual-only schools. According to the July 15 document, MSHSAA does not currently allow schools not participating in in-person learning to participate in sports.
“If a school deems that it is not safe to hold face to face instruction, then it is inappropriate to have students and coaches come together to participate in sports and activities,” said MSHSAA executive director Kerwin Urhahn.
Niehoff said it was “feasible” for sports to return without in-person schooling.
“But, again, the philosophy of a school district regarding the connection between the academic half of the day and co-curricular half of the day, I certainly appreciate that if there is a concern about an optic that one might be more important than another,” Niehoff said. “Or there’s a concern there that might be a local concern, I absolutely respect it and appreciate it.”
Should students return to classrooms, Niehoff suggested sports return in phases sorted by risk and contact.
“If kids are back on campus, we will likely see a phase-in certainly to sports like cross country, golf, tennis — in some states, those individual sports are in the fall, other states they’re in the spring,” Niehoff said. “More full-contact sports like football, I think we will see a delay. Is it likely that we will be playing football as we’ve previously scheduled it to be, without testing, without mitigation? I don’t know. Each individual state will be making those decisions. I think, quite frankly, we are in a pattern of delay for the higher-risk sports like football, whereas other sports will engage in more traditional competition earlier.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @abagueros2.