WIAA releases plan to return to high school sports in the fall

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SEATTLE, Wash. — At its June 7 meeting, the WIAA Executive Board was asked to set philosophical guidelines regarding the anticipated re-opening of schools and activities for the 2020-21 school year. This was done by answering four questions formulated by the National Federation of High Schools. The answers to these questions, which are listed below, will provide the framework for future planning of the Executive Board, WIAA Staff and member schools.

WIAA staff has started work on creating return-to-play guidelines on a sport-by-sport basis, beginning with the fall season. WIAA Assistant Executive Directors have assembled committees of coaches, administrators, officials and students from around the state to provide their expertise and input to tackle issues unique to each sport. A full list of committee members for each sport can be found in the attached document at the bottom of this email.

As we navigate return-to-play, schools in different regions of the state will inevitably be operating under circumstances and safety protocols unique to their area. The Executive Board determined that the primary mission of the WIAA is to provide opportunities in education-based athletics and activities. Participation in extracurricular sports and activities is a critical part of the high school experience and, sadly, that has never been more evident than when those opportunities were taken away this spring by COVID-19.

The WIAA Executive Board and staff recognize that participation will need to take place in a setting that does not jeopardize the health and well-being of students or their communities, which is why we will continue to think creatively as an organization while also working with health officials at the state level. We encourage each district and league to work together to answer these questions at the local level as well. Some leagues have already begun this planning by putting together committees to address regular-season contests and format for each sport. We strongly recommend all leagues have these discussions as we approach the fall season. While WIAA Staff will be available to support member schools in any way we can, each league has the autonomy to develop policies and contingency plans that represent their communities. WIAA staff plan to provide specific questions and talking points next week that will help drive those local conversations.

NFHS Return-To-Play Questions

1. Will the WIAA conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if schools
statewide are closed to in-person learning (apart from regularly scheduled school breaks)?

Though many large schools and urban schools may only have distance learning, the WIAA intends to conduct a regular season and/or championships assuming the DOH supports the recommendation. At this time, the WIAA plans to begin the fall season as scheduled but is also examining a delayed start of September 7, 2020 (September 5 for football) as its primary contingency option.

2. Will the WIAA conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if schools are
closed only in COVID-19 “hotspots” in Washington (excluding participants from schools that
are closed)?

Although not ideal, the WIAA intends to conduct a regular season and/or championships even if all schools are not able to participate.

3. Will the WIAA conduct an athletics/activities regular season in sports deemed “lower-risk” for
COVID-19 transmission while cancelling athletics/activities considered “higher-risk”?

The WIAA intends to conduct all scheduled fall athletics/activities that are approved by the DOH.

4. Are there recommendations unique to Washington that we need to take into consideration
when developing our 2020-2021 plans? This could include modified seasons, modified rules,
etc.

The WIAA intends to commence sport/activity-specific work groups to recommend and evaluate modifications to rules. It is also recommended the Executive Board prioritize modified season options and determine decision deadlines.