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August 8, 2020

7/1/2020 11:54:00 AM
Yes, there will be school sports this fall
Resumption of sports is broken down into cumulative phases
Johnathon Kipper

A plan for athletics and other activities to return to the middle school and high school as been approved after weeks of work from various teachers, administrators, and faculty in the cooperation.

The plan was approved at the June 25 school board meeting, along with the rest of the reopening plan for the entire school system.

Jennings County's plan is broken down into 3 phases, similar to the Back on Track: Indiana plan from the Governor. Each phase details certain criteria in a variety of categories, including how long students can practice, how they must practice, what areas are allowed to be used, and what precautions will be taken.

Phase I of the plan will last from July 6 until July 19. In Phases I, students may only practice for 15 hours a week for all activities. Activity days can only happen twice a week and not on consecutive days. Conditioning can happen 4 times a week, 2 hours per day. Practices will be conducted at 50 percent of the venue's capacity. Lifting that requires a spotter is prohibited to encourage distancing.

Also in Phase I, locker rooms will be off limits. Water bottles and other personal equipment will be brought by each student from home. Cleaning will happen after practices of the facilities and equipment used. There will also be no contact allowed during practices.

Phase II will last from July 20 until August 15. The hour limit on practices for each student will return to normal summer regulations from the IHSAA by-laws. Practices will still be at 50 percent of the facility's capacity. Lifting requiring spotters will be allowed during this phase. Locker rooms will be open, but only at 50 percent capacity, but students are encouraged to shower and change for practice at home. Contact will be allowed at practices as well.

Fall sports can begin official practices on August 3. Up until then, all summer practices are voluntary workouts for each student.

Phase III will begin on August 15. With Phase III, hour limits and most aspects of the activities will resort back to the IHSAA by-laws. Competitions will be allowed on Aug. 15 for fall sports, with Girls Golf allowed to start competing on August 3. Fans and parents will be allowed at events staring with Phase III, along with travel provided by the school corporation to and from events for the students.

With all phases, temperature checks of students and coaches will happen on a regular basis. Masks for students will be encouraged when not performing vigorous activity and social distancing cannot be maintained. Symptoms will also be tracked daily for all students and coaches.

For the complete plan on the reopening of Jennings County Athlet-ics and Activities, please to to:: https://www.jcsc.or g/news#upcomingplans.

AD: Plan will keep students safe while getting back to competition

One of the people who was a part of putting together the reopening plan was Jennings County High School Athletic Director Cory Stevens. Stevens, who is entering his second year as A.D. says that it was a process putting together the plan.

"It took a decent amount of time, starting with the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) guidelines," he said. "It was very vague, not assigning dates. The Department of Education then came out with their plan, which actually had dates and was more specific."

The A.D. then used those two sets of guidelines, fit it with the needs of our athletic programs, and helped put together the current guidelines.

One of the challenges brought on by COVID-19 is how fans will be able to watch games in person. There are a few possibilities on how that may look to encourage social distancing.

"I could see us mapping places out in the stands for individuals and families to sit in," Stevens said. "It may involve distancing yourself, wearing a mask, or a combination of both."

Some other options include assigned seats for outdoor sports, similar to basketball games at the high school. For sports like volleyball, the upper level of bleachers could be opened up to encourage distancing as well.

Throughout June, practices have been ongoing for sports, but away from the high school itself. Teams have had Zoom practices, posted workouts on social media, and held a variety of other interactions. According to Stevens, these are one of the positives that has come from the last few months.

"It has forced our coaches and teams to become more innovative in how they communicate and work with one another," he said.

Another bright spot has been how students will be tracked for symptoms of the virus.

Starting this year, both the middle school and high school have teamed up with FinalForms, which will manage and store all athletic documents for the athletes digitally, such as concussion forms, physicals, and Panther Code forms. The system, however, will also be able to keep track of athletes' temperatures, symptoms, and other information to pinpoint who may be at risk if someone contracts the virus.

"There is an attendance function that our coaches can take attendance and keep track of symptoms each day from their phones," Stevens said. "It is also timed stamped, so we know who is in each session with that athlete."

Athletes are encouraged to stay at home if they do have any symptoms, which will hopefully also keep issues or positive cases under control.

While the reopening plan is in place, it is also a fluid and changing one. However, now that there are guidelines on how to reopen safely, Jennings County Athletics is ready to get back to sports.

"We are excited to get back to work," said Stevens. "We want to keep our students and coaches to stay as safe as possible, but we also want to get back to competing and working together."

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