What the high school athletics calendar will look like in spring is not as big of a question as other pressing issues being ironed out by the Oregon School Activities Association at this time as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Ontario High School Athletic Director Josh Mink, “everything is updating in real time lately,” with recent guidance having been handed down from OSAA to schools in the second-to-last week in January as well as again on Friday.
“We know what the calendar is probably going to be,” he said. “Fall sports in March for five weeks, then April 5 starts spring sports for five weeks, then basketball, wrestling and volleyball will go from the middle of May to June.”
What’s unknown are key factors which will impact fall sports.
“We’re waiting for a ruling on whether there can be full contact or not for football,” Mink said. “Also, what does it look like for volleyball, because of the indoor guidance for recreation changes, and how to move forward with fall sports.”
On Jan. 29, OSAA updated the frequently asked questions link on its website to include COVID information. Guidelines for K-12 school sports are based on a county’s COVID-19 risk level (Malheur County is still considered in the extreme level), and are no longer tied to the school’s instructional model. This means that while a school may reopen, K-12 sports are still under the Oregon Health Authority’s guidance established for indoor and outdoor recreation and fitness establishments.
The guidance spells out whether teams which travel will be expected to quarantine, and how transportation will pan out.
Furthermore, full contact sports, including football, basketball, wrestling, contact dance and contact cheerleading, are still prohibited by Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority.
“Training and conditioning, such as weightlifting, running drills and intra-squad scrimmaging can be conducted but cannot include contact of any kind,” reads guidance on the county level risk.
Gathering limits for sporting events as of Friday, were set at a maximum of 50 people for outdoor events in extreme risk counties. Indoor activities for the same risk category are weighted based on space. School facilities larger than 500 sq. ft. can have a maximum of 6 people total, not including coaches, and 25 square feet of physical distancing must be maintained. Those facilities smaller than 500 square feet can only have one-on-one use, such as a coach and another person at this time.
OSAA will meet again on Monday to “finalize where those guidances leave us,” Mink says, adding that he has a goal to put together a video update to go on the Ontario School District’s website sometime next week which explains the guidance.