Creativity the key as WIAA plans for high school seasons this fall

Creative thinking and collaboration with public health officials are the cornerstones of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s plan for high school sports to return this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The association said in a press release that it is intending to begin practices as normal (Aug. 19 for football, Aug. 24 for the other fall sports), as long as it has the OK from the state Department of Health.

A later start to the season (Sept. 5 for football, Sept. 7 for other fall sports) also is being planned as a contingency.

While describing such a situation as “not ideal,” the WIAA also said it intends to conduct a regular season and/or championship even if schools are still open only remotely and if some schools can’t participate because of the coronavirus, as long as it has approval from the state Department of Health.

And it will move forward even though areas of the state will be in different phases of reopening under Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start Washington” plan.

“The Executive Board determined that the primary mission of the WIAA is to provide opportunities in education-based athletics and activities,” the organization said. “Participation in extracurricular sports and activities is a critical part of the high-school experience and, sadly, that has never been more evident than when those opportunities were taken away this spring by COVID-19.”

WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman said Sunday more specifics about how this fall would look will start to become clear after guidance for school reopening is released from the governor’s office.

An initial document from the state Superintendent of Public Instruction released Thursday said schools should plan to resume classes in-person this fall, although with a much different look such as desks spaced 6 feet apart and potentially holding classes in gyms and cafeterias. A mix of distance learning and staggered schedules also are likely.

The WIAA also has created committees, made up of coaches, administrators, officials and students, to look at each sport and create guidelines for what is needed to play and stay safe.

“The WIAA Executive Board and staff recognize that participation will need to take place in a setting that does not jeopardize the health and well-being of students or their communities, which is why we will continue to think creatively as an organization while also working with health officials at the state level,” the release said.

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