As Washington state officials and health experts outline plans to reopen parts of the state’s economy while extending the current stay-at-home order, high school sports organizers are planning behind the scenes for a wide range of scenarios if high school athletics are to return in the fall.
How and when school will return is unknown. But the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association is creating a variety of contingency plans for the fall. The options include an abbreviated fall season, an interrupted season and even alternating seasons of sports that lend themselves to social distancing.
“We’re going to be as creative as possible to give students opportunities to participate, right? So does football get moved from the fall to another season? We don’t know,” WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said. “Or could we run a fall track season with cross country or a modified track season to give kids a chance to participate? If we have a November 1 start date for fall, do we adjust all of our seasons?”
- MORE: Q&A with Mick Hoffman: How the WIAA is planning for 2020-2021 high school sports in Washington
“There are several possibilities, several scenarios, so what we’re doing is we’re developing logistical plans of how does this possibly impact other programs and schools, and what does it do to everybody financially. Can this be done? We’ll see what works.”
All schools across the state are closed through June 19, the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, and spring high school athletics have been canceled in response to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, per Governor Jay Inslee’s directive in early April. Schools have since adapted curriculums to an online education model.
After June 19, exactly when and how summer athletics in a high school setting can happen is up in the air. This week, in response to a gradual decline in new confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gov. Inslee outlined that some state land will open up on May 5 for outdoor recreation such as golfing, fishing, hiking and hunting. The governor is also expected to extend the statewide stay-at-home mandate beyond May 4, the date the current order is set to expire.
As officials work through what’s next, the WIAA is planning for many different potential scenarios.
Hoffman, who is adhering to the stay-at-home order with his family in Vancouver, sees schools starting on time in the fall in some capacity, whether online-only or in-person. But if in-person learning isn’t taking place, what does that mean for high school athletics?
“Well, that’s really and ultimately going to be the governor and Superintendent (Chris) Reykdal’s decision,” Hoffman said. “I think students could do a version of this online learning at home and still be able to go to a golf course and compete and social distance. Kids could potentially play tennis, even if it’s just singles and no doubles, and social distance.
“I think we could run a cross-country meet maybe over the course of a couple of days, which again, isn’t ideal, but what we really have to get people to wrap their minds around is that we’re not going to be dealing with anything that is ideal. We’re going to have to adjust, or the alternative is having nothing.”