Dive Brief:

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently recommended delaying all fall sports until 2021, joining several other states in postponing or eliminating the season, District Administration reports. The controversial decision disappointed members of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which says schools have worked hard to develop COVID-19 safety plans.
  • The athletic associations of Delaware, Oregon and Maryland have also opted to eliminate the fall sports season this year, and Alabama’s Barbour County canceled sports for the entire school school year. Districts and athletic associations in Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia are also delaying or eliminating their fall and/or winter seasons.
  • Other states are tinkering with schedules. California, for example, pushed all its fall and winter sports to December, at the earliest, and possibly into January. And after canceling all sports for the state’s districts this season, Delaware’s Interscholastic Athletic Association said it will consider relaunching sports in February 2021 in a “condensed season model,” with two weeks out of the six-week season dedicated to playoffs. 

Dive Insight:

As districts grapple with reopening plans, some are asking parents to sign waivers for extracurriculars that include language absolving district stakeholders from COVID-19-related liability if students contract the virus participating in afterschool, sports or summer programs. Such waivers, which are sometimes created by insurance providers, have proven controversial as teacher unions and parents push back. Waivers were recalled in Florida’s Volusia County Schools, for example, after the local teacher union issued a “cease and desist” letter. The district said the waivers were sent “inadvertently.”

Chicago Public Schools also required parents and guardians to sign a waiver for summer sports, but not for classes. The district’s summer sports guidelines include social distancing, sanitizing and hand-washing before workouts, and wearing a mask at all times indoors and outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible.

Some legal experts claim such waivers would not hold up in court, but parents are warned not to sign them anyway. If schools follow safety protocols, they don’t need waivers, experts contend.

More than 20 states will allow high schools to start the fall sports season on time, and more than 10 have delayed fall sports until 2021, according to MaxPreps, which exclusively covers high school sports.

In May, the National Federation of State High School Associations released guidelines detailing three phases to reopen sports. In all the phases, coaches and staff are encouraged to wear masks. The first phase suggests temperature checks before workouts, no more than 10 people gathering in workout pods, and no locker room use. By phase two, 50 people can gather for outdoor workouts with continued temperature checks. Indoor workouts of up to 50 athletes begin in phase three, with three-foot distancing when not competing.

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