Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the plans to reopen K-12 public schools in Virginia is his Tuesday press conference and with that came more information regarding high school sports and the plan going forward.
The governor released the phase guidance plan that lays out how Virginia schools will return. It’s a three-phase plan that will coincide with where the state is in its phases of reopening. If schools were to reopen now they would reopen in Phase Two.
Phase Two guidelines state that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommends no school sports competition take place, unless physical distancing can be maintained at all times. Examples are individual swimmers showing up at scheduled times to have their event timed, and no players can touch or share equipment. Any competition that involves contact with other athletes should be avoided.
In the Phase Three guidelines athletics and extracurricular activities may continue with some mitigation measures. They advise that more guidance will be forthcoming when it comes to specifics for athletics in Phase Three.
Once the governor released the reopening plan, the Virginia High School League issued a statement to update its plans. The VHSL had previously announced it was awaiting the governor’s guidance in preparing for fall sports.
VHSL officials are now beginning the process to align the governor’s Phase Two and Phase Three plan with the work the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) has already done, and once that is completed, they will share those guidelines with the executive committee. Once those guidelines are approved, they will provide them to the school divisions as local school boards are developing plans for reopening.
“Once we review the documents provided by the governor to reopen schools, we will move as quickly as possible to develop guidelines that will align with his plans,” VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said. “It is important to say that these guidelines must also align with local school divisions and superintendents reopening plans under Phase Two and Three,” he added.
The governor’s press office added some clarification to the guidelines by stating that Education Secretary Atif Qarni is in direct communication with the VHSL and will continue to provide them with guidance as it is developed. They stated that Phase One and Phase Two guidelines have been put into place, but Phase Three guidelines for sports is forthcoming.
Haun reiterated that there is still work to be done in getting the guidelines and plans worked out. “Before entering Phase Two or Three, the public health commissioner has ordered that every public and private school in Virginia will be required to submit to the VDOE a plan outlining their strategies for mitigating public health risk of COVID-19 and comply with CDC and VDH recommendations. There is still work to be done before these guidelines can be put in place to reopen athletic activities.”