The return of sports from the coronavirus shutdown can't come soon enough for Oregon high schools.
But as is apparent in the OSAA's Wednesday memo offering summer guidance to schools, the process is going to require plenty of patience.
“It's not like coming back we're going to flip on a switch. It's going to be like a dial,” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said. “It's going to be more of a gradual type of reopening.”
The association year ends May 25, which means OSAA rules prohibiting the use of school facilities and coach/student physical interaction will be lifted May 26. However, state-imposed restrictions will remain.
Schools in the 31 counties that received approval to reopen May 15 will be under the state's Phase 1 guidelines through June 5. Schools in the other five counties – Marion, Polk, Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah – will be in Phase 1 for 21 days once those counties are approved to reopen.
The OSAA, working closely with its sports medicine advisory committee, provided schools with an outline that aligns with Phase 1 directives from the Oregon Health Authority. That guidance was posted on the OSAA website Wednesday after the executive board met in an online closed work session.
“The goal was to try to provide some things for schools to consider as they look at reopening things for the summer,” Weber said. “The obvious goal would be as we move forward in the next few weeks that we provide some Phase 2 guidance, then some Phase 3 guidance, as well.”
Gov. Kate Brown had ordered school facilities closed through June 30, but the OSAA has received clarification from the Oregon Department of Education that the date was applied to align with the districts that are the latest to finish their school year. Districts can reopen facilities the day after their school year ends.
“A school that ends on June 2, in theory, would be able to use their facilities on June 3,” Weber said.
Weber encouraged schools to carefully review the recommendations the OSAA provided Wednesday. The NFHS offered its own guidance for state associations in a document it released Tuesday.
“People that are thinking, 'Hey, May 26, it's just like last year when the summer season began,' but it's not,” Weber said. “If you read through that, there's a lot of stuff that people need to be considering in terms of hygiene and pre-screening and cleaning the facilities.
“And even what they're allowed to do per the recommendations is pretty minimal – the small groups of kids, and no-contact, more conditioning-type workout stuff as opposed to sharing equipment. They shouldn't be doing that.”
The executive board plans to meet for work sessions every two weeks, the next one scheduled for June 3. By then, the state should have guidance for Phase 2.
“The goal would be to have that guidance out by the early part of June,” Weber said.
Many summer activities are likely to hinge on state guidance for Phase 2. Contact sports are prohibited in Phase 1, but the OSAA has yet to receive a definition of the term from the OHA.
“That was our first question to them a week ago,” Weber said. “Everybody knows football is a contact sport, but how do they view basketball or soccer, those things?”
Defining restrictions for camps of contact sports also will be key.
“What we're saying in Phase 1 is you can do a contact sport, you just can't have contact,” Weber said. “Well, then it's not a contact sport. You have kids lined up in a drill, but they're six feet apart, and they're not touching each other, and they're not sharing equipment. It's more of a workout type of thing.
“The contact piece is going to be an issue going forward.”