WIAA releases next steps for return to play

There has been a groundswell of support for fall athletes returning to play at both the high school and college levels in recent weeks.

In the NCAA, the Big Ten reversed itself and has decided to play football along with the ACC, SEC and Big 12.

The Pac-12 may soon follow suit.

Meanwhile, at the high school level, 15 of 50 states have decided to postpone fall sports to spring, while the rest are playing schedules of varied sizes with different start dates depending on the state.

Support for a return to play in Washington culminated in a group of about 120 athletes congregated at the Capitol building in Olympia this month. In response, the WIAA clarified its “return-to-play” process, which includes a number of hurdles that must be cleared.

“The WIAA fully understands the desire to return to play,” the organization said in a statement released last weekend.

“Education-based activities is a passion for those in our office as well as for athletic directors and coaches around the state.

“However, the WIAA’s top priority is the health and safety of student-participants while offering equitable opportunities to all students.”

Currently, fall sports are scheduled for season three in the WIAA’s four-season plan, which places the start of football practices on Feb. 17; the rest of the season three sports begin March 1, and season three ends in early May.

The WIAA left open season one as an alternate season for low-risk sports, such as tennis, golf and cross country, but no school in Kitsap or West Central District 3 is participating.

The governor’s office released over the summer recommended modes of learning based on the level of COVID-19 diseases activity in the community around the school.

Some lower-risk sports, along with greater rates of in-person learning, can begin after communities fall below the level of 25 cases per 100,000 residents.

Kitsap County is currently around 34 per 100,000, though it varies by region.

Hospitalization trends and contact tracing capacity are also factors.

With most school districts in the state opting against any in-person learning for at least a couple of months, it’s likely at least the youngest students will have to return to their buildings before any school district considers adding back extracurricular activities.

The WIAA will continue to review any new recomendations from the Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, the Department of Health or the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the statement said.

In order to return to play, the WIAA needs the governor’s recommendation; guidance from the DOH on the required steps to return to play; a commitment from each school’s leadership; support from coaches under collective bargaining agreements; and review of new recommendations by risk management groups.

Football, along with the rest of the fall sports, are still scheduled for season 3 in the spring. (Review file photo)

Football, along with the rest of the fall sports, are still scheduled for season 3 in the spring. (Review file photo)

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