The Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA) has released their plan for a safe return to school athletics for the fall.
The association is allowing five fall sports to go ahead in September for an in-school practice only capacity, meaning there will be no competition between schools permitted at this time.
John Payton, executive director of ASAA, says this is the first step in what could be a “multi-step process” during the course of the school year.
Provincial government regulations allow for cohorts of 50 individuals to be involved in a sport group and a person cannot be involved in more than one sport group at a time.
“If somebody’s playing hockey they can’t do any school sport, or if they’re in a school sport they can’t do any non-school sports,” explained Payton.
Golf, cross-country running, football, volleyball and cheerleading are the five sports going ahead with back-to-school.
Typically these teams are allowed to start Aug. 16, but the executive board decided to post-pone the season due to the uncertainty surrounding what was happening in schools as division re-entry plans were released.
All five sports will be possible for schools, but ultimately the decision to allow teams comes down to each individual division, said Payton.
The ASAA’s “safe return to high school athletics” guide breaks down the protocols including spectators, equipment and transportation.
“What we’ve indicated is that we’re not recommending spectators at this time because, really, it is only practice,” Payton said. “If it’s not a need to have parents there then it’s safer to limit contact between people.”
The guide also recommends transportation to and from activities only be with members of the same household if possible. It also states participants should come to activities fully dressed and ready as it is recommended lockers or change rooms not be used.
It is recommended group equipment is sanitized before and after each session as a minimum, and that individual equipment not be shared with others, such as helmets or clubs.
Payton says the executive board spent weeks researching what was happening provincially, across the country and below the border for the best practices to build a comprehensive package.
“We would hope that people would take the time to read it because there are people thinking that ‘well if a certain sport, they’re already having activities why can’t we do it at the school level.’”
“There are a lot more factors to consider at the school level, which is what will the school district allow for any type of extracurricular, doesn’t matter if its sport, art, drama, band, robotics, anything that happens outside of school hours.”
He added there is quite a range from one school district to another in terms of what is being allowed right off the bat and the ASAA executive committee is going to revisit where things are by mid-September.
The first focus of the executive committee, says Payton, was ensuring the kids are back in school safely and schools have been able to get settled into the “new normal” of the school year.
“Once those things have occurred the executive [committee] will consider, within government regulations, what sort of things might be possible within schools,” he added.
The number of cases and how schools are doing with reopening are examples of factors the committee will take into account.
“We all just want to see kids get back involved in school sports, but the most important thing is their personal safety,” said Payton, “it’s more important for them not to get sick than it is to play some sports.”