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IHSAA and DOE send guidance document to schools, outlining three-phase plan for return to play

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY , June 5, 2020, 4:15 pm

The first step in the IHSAA’s return to the field of play came Friday, in the form of a guidance document that was provided to member schools. 

As part of a 37-page document sent from the office of Gov. Eric Holcomb, as well as the Indiana Department of Education, the COVID-19 Health and Safety Re-Entry Guidance included a three-phased pathway for IHSAA schools to re-introduce educational athletics.

IHSAA sports have been idle since March 12, and all spring sports were canceled on April 2.

Those guidelines coincide with the established first practice date for girls golf on July 31, followed by the return of all other sports on Aug. 3. 

Competitions are set to begin with girls golf on Aug. 3, followed by other sports on Aug. 15.

Phase I runs from July 6-19, and includes no formal competition and no contact.

Phase II, from July 20-Aug. 15, incorporates contact — as allowed by the IHSAA rules, but celebratory contact is discouraged — as athletes train, but competitions do not begin (with the exception of girls golf) until the end.

Phase III starts on Aug. 15, beginning the competition phase, with spectators, media and vendors allowed, but expected to follow social distancing and mass gathering guidelines. 

Other items outlined in the document: 

— Student athletes who wish to wear face coverings during activities may do so, and all athletes should wear one when “not engaging in vigorous activity,” as should all coaches and support staff.

— Locker-room use, which begins in Phase II, should start at 50 percent capacity, and continue into Phase III, unless that limitation impacts the hygiene or safety of students. Athletes should shower at home, and wash workout clothing upon their return home. 

— New student-athletes need a pre-participation physical, but returning student-athletes only need to fill out the IHSAA health history update questionnaire. All staff should be trained to screen for the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and all participants — staff and athletes — should be screened before participating in any workouts or competitions. Coaches must track COVID-19 related attendance and report it to the school. 

— Gathering sizes should be decreased — especially in early phases, with workouts conducted in smaller, defined groups — and administrators should consider reducing the number of events, duration and participants present to help limit the possibilities for transmission. 

The IHSAA will be providing further guidance and clarifications to member schools over the next few weeks.