MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (EYT) – The PIAA Board of Directors is asking to partner with the Governor and the Departments of Health and Education to further discuss the issue of fall sports and possible unintended consequences of cancelling the fall sports season.
The PIAA Board of Directors met Friday afternoon to review Governor Wolf’s statement strongly recommending no interscholastic and recreational sports until January 1.
As the organization has noted, its member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans in accordance with the Department of Health and Department of Education recommendations to allow students to safely return to interscholastic sports.
The PIAA Board of Directors has heard the thousands of voices of student-athletes, parents, coaches, and community leaders that have contacted us. The Board believes that the Governor’s strong recommendation to delay sports to January 1, 2021, has a potential negative impact on the students’ physical, social, emotional, and mental health. These issues along with the financial inability of many students to participate in any other form of non-school based athletic programs affect all students directly or indirectly.
PIAA is asking the Governor, along with the Departments of Health and Education, to partner with them and work collaboratively to further discuss fall sports. The organization is also seeking insight and discussion from the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
It is clear to PIAA, the unintended consequences of canceling fall sports need to be further reviewed. PIAA has worked diligently with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and developed the following general policy statement:
Based on currently known information, the Committee believes that STRICT ADHERENCE by schools and teams to their school-adopted plans and the Governor’s School Sports Guidance should provide a reasonably safe environment for student athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics as currently scheduled.
Consistent with the advice of the PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, PIAA continues to believe it can safely sponsor fall sports. On August 21st the Board will reconvene. Between now and then, voluntary workouts, per the Governor’s Guidance for All Sports, and with local approval, may continue. Mandatory fall sports activities are paused for the two week period. PIAA remains committed to providing a season for each of the sports during the 2020-2021 school year.
Following Governor Wolf’s press conference on Thursday afternoon, a press release was issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education jointly recommending that Pre-K to 12 school and recreational youth sports be postponed until at least January 1, 2021, to protect children and teens from COVID-19.
The press release included the following information:
The administration is providing this strong recommendation and not an order or mandate. As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports.
Highlights of the recommendation to pause youth sports until Jan. 1, 2021:
- Applies to team and individual, school and non-school recreational youth sports;
- Includes competitions, intramural play and scrimmages;
- Continue conditioning, drills and other training activities on an individual basis;
- Does not apply to collegiate and professional sports;
- Gathering limits remain unchanged – no more than 25 persons may gather indoors and 250 outdoors.
The administration is updating existing sports guidance to reflect this recommendation.
The administration recognizes the importance of getting children back to school, while also protecting the safety and well-being of students and educators. Guidance for schools is available. The guidance represents endorsed best public health practices related to social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfecting in school settings. It also outlines how to accommodate individuals with disabilities or chronic conditions, procedures for monitoring symptoms, and responding to confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in the school community.
According to a published article on pennlive.com, when Governor Wolf was asked about PIAA’s recent announcement that high school sports would resume in the fall, he reiterated that he believes sports should not be held for the remainder of the year, adding that “we ought to avoid any congregate settings.”
The PIAA’s board of directors last Wednesday voted unanimously to move forward with a plan for fall sports. The plan would have included a normal schedule and a number of precautions.
While the PIAA had given their approval, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine declined to endorse the decision, stating the same data being used to make decisions about sending students back to their classrooms should also be used to make decisions regarding athletics.
On July 14, the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) voted to suspend all mandated conference athletic events and championships through the fall semester in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All fall and winter sports scheduled to begin before January 1 were impacted by this decision. The Conference plans to evaluate the necessary schedule changes and will communicate its plans for moving all competitions to the spring semester at a later date.