A pathway to participation exists for prep athletes this school year after recent changes to the state’s COVID-19 recovery metrics coupled with clarifications received after the WIAA consulted with state health officials and the governor’s office.
New guidelines from the state now allow for low- and moderate-risk indoor sports (volleyball, girls swimming) to practice in groups of six or fewer during Phase 1. Likewise, high-risk outdoor sports (football) may also hold practices in groups of six or fewer.
Moderate-risk outdoor sports (girls soccer) can hold full-team practices and intra-squad scrimmages in Phase 1. Scrimmages against other teams are not permitted.
Competitive events for low-risk outdoor sports (cross country) can be held in Phase 1 with no spectators allowed.
Under all guidelines, masks must be worn at all times, by athletes, coaches and officials.
Season 1 (traditional fall sports) practices are set to begin Feb. 1 for what will be an expanded Olympic League under the Northwest Region umbrella, the four-county region consisting of Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap and Mason counties grouped together under the new public health matrices.
A seven-week competitive season would run through March 21. The number of required practices has been cut, so some competitions could begin as early as the week of Feb. 8 if the region can move to Phase 2.
“We are going to remain the Olympic League and we will have potentially 13 schools,” Port Angeles athletic director and Olympic League president Dwayne Johnson said.
The league will be made up of Port Angeles, Sequim, a combined Port Townsend-Chimacum program, North Kitsap, Kingston, Olympic, Klahowya, Central Kitsap, Bremerton, South Kitsap, Shelton, North Mason and potentially Bainbridge, which was expected to decide on joining the league by Monday.
“Competitive balance is a big aspect for the safety of the kids, so the larger schools will match with the larger schools and the smaller schools will play against similar-sized schools as much as possible,” Johnson said.
One football division would include Sequim, North Kitsap, Central Kitsap, South Kitsap, Bremerton and Bainbridge.
The other gridiron division would include Port Angeles, Port Townsend/Chimacum, Kingston, Klahowya, North Mason and Shelton.
In other sports, the league would be split into a Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend/Chimacum, Kingston, Klahowya and Olympic division and a Bainbridge, Bremerton, Central Kitsap, South Kitsap, North Kitsap, North Mason and Shelton division.
To move into Phase 2 of the new Healthy Washington re-opening plan, all four Northwest Region counties must meet four requirements in order to allow expanded practice sessions and for high school to hold competitions. This includes a 10 percent decreasing trend in case rates; 10 percent decrease in hospital admission rates; 90 percent or less occupancy at hospital intensive care units; 10 percent or less test positivity rate.
The Northwest Region met three of four metrics in data released Friday, missing out on the decrease in hospital admission rates with a rise of 114 percent in a two-week period coming after Christmas and including the first nine days of 2021.
If the region can reach Phase 2, attendance would be limited to 200 for outdoor sports and 25-percent capacity for indoor sports. That includes all competitors, coaches and officials, further limiting that number.
“Capacity for in-person events is going to be minimal from parents and community members,” Johnson said.
The district has extensive experience in livestreaming contests through its student-driven digital production team or through the NFHS Network.
“We are in synch with them so we can go ahead and stream our games from our fans and the away teams and provide an activity that is essential for their learning in broadcast and production,” Johnson said.
Port Angeles School Board member Sarah Methner said she would like to see expanded livestreaming of athletic and other events continue after COVID-19.
“This is something I would like to see continue in perpetuity,” Methner said.