The Oregon School Activities Association has issued its coronavirus-related guidelines for the upcoming fall season, for now. It is up to the school districts to interpret how to utilize the rules best.
In Central Oregon, schools and their athletic teams are just waiting for the final set of guidelines to come out of the OSAA executive board meetings sometime next week.
Last week, the OSAA announced that while fall sports teams can begin holding official practices on the original start date of Aug. 17, contests have been pushed back from late August until Sept. 23 for volleyball, cross-country and boys and girls soccer. High contact sports like football and cheerleading remain prohibited due to more risk of transmission.
But little other than the pushback of a final decision regarding fall sports was released by the OSAA.
“We are just still in a holding pattern waiting to see if things change,” said Dave Williams, the Bend-La Pine School District’s athletic director. “The OSAA doesn’t want to cancel seasons, and I’d imagine that is why they keep pushing it back. They are just waiting for the last hour to make a decision because they want to provide seasons for kids.”
In the non-COVID-19 world, this week would have been the “moratorium week” in high school sports, meaning all team activities would be paused for the week. This year the OSAA canceled the moratorium week, but many schools in Central Oregon — as is the case with many schools around the state — are unofficially observing the off week.
Crook County athletic director Rob Bonner noted that most of the school’s programs have stopped practicing this week and are adhering to the new directives, which now include wearing masks while training.
In Sisters, teams have been practicing since getting the green light from the OSAA in mid-June. While the school’s weight room will remain open, AD and football coach Gary Thorson is encouraging fellow fall sports coaches to take a break with contests now potentially two months away from starting rather than one month.
“Everyone was excited to get out and work again,” Thorson said. “Kids were excited, as the summer went on, with the increase of people testing positive we have had a little drop off in numbers.”
The Bend-La Pine School District does not require teams to stop operations. However, some teams, like the Bend High football team, have decided to take the week off with the start of the football season still up in the air.
“We did not institute anything district-wide,” Williams said. “This time of year, I’m sure there are teams that are taking a break before they fire back up for their real seasons.”
The plan laid out last week by OSAA was not well received on social media. It was mostly viewed as a “kicking the can down the road” solution, especially compared with the plans laid out by neighboring Washington and California.
However, Oregon’s academic calendar does start later in the year than in California, so it has a little extra time to lay out a more detailed plan before the school year starts. As executive director of the OSAA Peter Weber said last week, the OSAA executive board — primarily made up of district superintendents and principals — is still working on plans to reopen its schools in the fall.
While the return of high school sports is a priority, finding a plan for reopening schools is a more critical issue to address, Weber said.
Forecasting what two weeks into the future could look like has been difficult for those making decisions on what schools and school athletics could look like this coming school year. Since high schools were shut down in mid-March, the only game being played has been the waiting game.
“Short of a vaccine, it’s going to be a lot more of this,” Bonner said. “It has been three steps forward and a couple of steps back. But we have to be patient.”