Return to School Roadmap includes guidelines for athletics
Wed, 07/01/2020 - 3:50pm caleb
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer asks MHSAA to consider postponing 2020 fall sports that are not able to maintain social distancing to spring of 2021
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Football in the spring? Track and field in the fall?
On Tuesday, June 30, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the signing of Executive Order 2020-142 and the release of the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, both of which offer guidelines and requirements for districts as they plan to re-open in the fall of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of schools in March.
Governor Whitmer, during the question and answer session of Tuesday’s announcement, said she has requested the Michigan High School Athletic Association consider changes to the traditional schedule to move fall sports that can’t adhere to current six-foot social distancing guidelines during competition to the 2021 spring season and consider moving some of the spring sports that can social distance to the fall.
“I’m calling on the Michigan High School Athletic Association to consider postponing fall sports that have the impossibility of social distancing as a part of them, consider moving those to the spring and running some of the more individualized sports like track and field or tennis or golf to the fall, and I anticipate a decision coming from them somewhere around July 20th to 25th, is what they’ve indicated,” Governor Whitmer said on June 30. “This is an idea that I hope they consider.”
The MHSAA’s latest list of guidelines for sports looking to resume activity was posted on June 9 after Governor Whitmer moved Region 6 and Region 8 into Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan. The latest guidelines allow for limited indoor activity and they call for proper social distancing, health screening, and increased hygiene at all training events.
“Member schools may continue outdoor summer activities at school facilities that have opened. Outdoor activity may continue to take place in groups of 100 or fewer, and in Regions 6 and 8 that number is 250. Total attendance numbers include all participants (students and staff) as well as any spectators,” according to the MHSAA.
Indoor activity in Region 6 and Region 8 is allowed “provided there are no more than 50 people in that gathering.”
“Even though a group of 50 or fewer may gather indoors for workouts, MHSAA guidance encourages smaller groups of the same students working out together. This will allow for better response to a positive COVID-19 case and subsequent contact tracing, if needed. Most weight rooms cannot accommodate physical distancing with 50 students, so the concept of smaller pods moving from larger spaces indoors or outdoors with rotations and cleaning of equipment in between is the best practice if a school decides to bring 50 students indoors at the same time,” according to the MHSAA.
The MHSAA offers a list of guidelines specific to each sport, grouping them into three categories: Low Risk Sports, Moderate Risk Sports, and Higher Risk Sports. Guidelines have many similarities between the three categories, including increased sanitization efforts and social distancing.
The Return to School Roadmap offers its own set of guidelines for athletics. It has different recommendations and regulations for schools depending on the district’s region and the region’s current MI Safe Start Plan COVID-19 phase. The six phases, according to www.michigan.gov, are: 1) Uncontrolled Growth; 2) Persistent Spread; 3) Flattening; 4) Improving; 5) Containing; 6) Post Pandemic.
Michigan has eight regions. Crawford County is in Region 6 with most of northern Michigan. Region 8 includes the Upper Peninsula.
As of July 1, Region 6 and Region 8 were in Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan. The Return to School Roadmap offers the following “strongly recommended” guidelines for schools in Phase 5 areas: “Indoor spectator events are limited to 50 people. Large scale outdoor spectator or stadium events are limited to 250 people. Spectators not part of the same household must always maintain six feet of distance from one another. Students, teachers, and staff must use proper hand hygiene techniques before and after every practice, event, or other gathering. Every participant should confirm that they are healthy and without any symptoms prior to any event. All equipment must be disinfected before and after use. Buses must be cleaned and disinfected before and after every use. Each participant should use a clearly marked water bottle for individual use. There should be no sharing of this equipment.”
The Return to School Roadmap, for schools in Phase 5 areas, also recommends: “Indoor weight rooms and physical conditioning activities are allowed. Social distancing of six feet between participants should be maintained while indoors and sharing equipment should be avoided. Handshakes, fist bumps, and other unnecessary contact should not occur.”
The Return to School Roadmap has more stringent rules for schools within Phase 4 regions. It lists the following as requirements: “Comply with all guidance published by Michigan High School Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations. Students, teachers, and staff must use proper hand hygiene techniques before and after every practice, event, or other gathering. Every participant should confirm that they are healthy and without any symptoms prior to any event. All equipment must be disinfected before and after use. Inter-school competitions may be held provided that facial coverings are worn if school transportation is provided. Buses must be cleaned and disinfected before and after every use. Spectators are allowed provided that facial coverings are used by observers and six feet of social distancing can be maintained at all times. Attention must given to entry and exit points to prevent crowding. Each participant must use a clearly marked water bottle for individual use. Handshakes, fist bumps, and other unnecessary contact must not occur. Indoor weight rooms and physical conditioning activities that require shared equipment are suspended. Outdoor physical conditioning activities are allowed while maintaining social distancing. Large scale indoor spectator events are suspended. Large scale outdoor spectator or stadium events are limited to 100 people, and people not part of the same household must maintain six feet of distance from one another.”