PHILADELPHIA - The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association announced health and safety guidelines for student-athletes to participate in fall sports, but at least one school has already opted to forgo the 2020-2021 athletic year.
The governing body, which oversees both junior high and high school athletics across the state, introduced mitigation measures which include the option to modify season schedules and start times. Under the guidelines, athletes and coaches must follow daily health screenings; high fives, fist bumps and hugs are prohibited.
If an athlete or coach tests positive for the coronavirus, the entire team is required to quarantine for two weeks, per CDC and Department of Health recommendations.
Following the orders handed down by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, the PIAA is not allowing family members, friends, or spectators to attend pre K-12 sporting events. Associate Executive Director of PIAA Melissa Mertz says she is hopeful Wolf will eventually allow spectators to attend.
With the uncertainty of the current health crisis, the PIAA says it's not forcing schools to commence fall sports. Mertz, appearing on Good Day Friday morning, admitted that districts understand their individual communities and athletic programs better than the PIAA. Mertz believes the guidance is not a "one-size-fits-all" set of rules.
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"Our state is very large, we have areas that are very urban and we have areas that are very rural," Mertz said. "If you look at areas above Route 80, they've have very minimal cases."
Meanwhile, Norristown School District has already decided to not proceed with the upcoming fall sports season. The district, which sits in one of the states hardest-hit counties, made the announcement Friday.
"If we cannot guarantee the safe return to the classroom, we cannot guarantee a safe return to the playing field, course, sidelines, court or locker room.
While Mertz believes that it's up to the districts to make a final decision on the fall sports season, she argued that children and teens have been playing league-run sports since the yellow phase.
"Kids are already playing," Mertz said. "In following the governor's guidance, and the orders that he's put forward, we do feel that we can bring high school sports back in a safe manner."
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