Activities association greenlights August start for high school sports

FILE PHOTOS BY MIKE CARROLL/PLAINSMAN AND JOHN DAVIS/AMERICAN NEWS On the left, Huron Tiger quarterback Cade McNeill rolls out and seeks an open receiver in the team’s game last September against Milbank, at Tiger Stadium. And on the right, Huron’s Audrey Rubish returns a volley during her singles match against Aberdeen Roncalli’s Hallie Haskell Aug. 27, 2019, at the Northern State University tennis courts.

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — High school sports in South Dakota will proceed on schedule but with precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s governing body decided Wednesday.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association’s board of directors unanimously approved a plan for competitions and practices to proceed.

Along with recommending that schools allow athletics to proceed on schedule, the board suggested that they take some safety precautions, including screening athletes, coaches and support staff for COVID-19 and isolating those found to have the disease.

SDHSAA athletic handbooks call for practice to begin for fall tennis - the girls’ season - on Aug. 3, the same day that Competitive Cheer and Dance is able to begin practices.

Soccer for both boys and girls will begin on Aug. 5, while all 9-man and 11B football teams, along with boys’ golfers may begin workouts on Aug. 10. The remaining football divisions, cross country and volleyball are all slated to begin on Aug. 13.

The plan also recommends a four-tiered system for allowing spectators into sporting events. The tiers would range from allowing anyone if infection trends are steady or decreasing to barring fans if there is a spike in cases in the region.

The plan will give school administrators some flexibility on how sports can proceed based on the severity of the pandemic in local areas.

“It was detailed enough to provide structure for all the schools in the state, but broad enough to allow for local control,” said Harrisburg activities director Jim Altenburg.

The association created a task force to come up with recommendations on how schools can try to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections and a tiered system for allowing fans to attend events.

Masks won’t be required at competitions, but the task force recommends that schools encourage spectators to wear them. It also says schools should “strongly consider” requiring students to wear them during bus rides to games and practices and that teams should create bus seating charts to help with contact tracing, if it’s necessary.

The South Dakota State Medical Association, which is the largest association of doctors in the state, has urged schools to require masks be worn indoors.

“It is important for everyone who will be in school buildings to wear face coverings this fall,” said Dr. Benjamin Aaker, the association’s president.

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