The Kansas State High School Activities Association formally implemented its plans for summer workouts and other activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic at its board of directors meeting on Friday evening.
Changes that KSHSAA’s board of directors voted in favor of on Friday include eliminating the summer moratorium, increasing allowable contact between coaches and student-athletes and implementing a two-week acclimation period for athletes returning to workouts when allowable.
“I’m pleased we have a plan in place,” said Mike Kastle, a member of the KSHSAA Executive Board as well as a USD 503 board member. “That plan may need to be changed. It’ll depend on when schools can open and go. But now the schools and kids now know what to expect over the next 30, 60, 90 days.”
The measures from KSHSAA come a day after Kansas Governor Laura Kelly released her three-phase statewide plan to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a good plan,” said Labette County Principal and Holtzman said. “It’s common sense with phasing it back in. The number one contingency is that each county has a possibility to be different. That makes it hard for KSHSAA to make everybody happy.”
No earlier than June 1, coinciding with a projected date of Phase 3 of Kelly’s plan, KSHSAA will begin its summer.
Student-athletes returning to workouts after spring sports were canceled will be subjected to a two-week acclimation period. During the first week, with a minimum of five days of conditioning, student-athletes will be limited to three hours of activity per day.
In the second week, again with a minimum of five days of conditioning, student-athletes will be limited to five hours of activity per day. After the two-week period, student-athletes can begin organized competition under the guidance of their school coaches.
“We can’t just throw these kids back and have them go full speed,” Kastle said. “We just need to make sure that we’re not making the kids work and work and work when they come back. A bunch of the kids aren’t doing anything now. Working out 10 hours a day when they come back wouldn’t be healthy for students.”
Holtzman added that Labette County’s coaching staff will be proactive in taking the acclimation period seriously.
“For us, that plan will be easy to follow,” Holtzman said. “Our coaches recognize that our kids will have to be eased back into it. We can’t be going full speed 5-on-5 on full pads, full contact. A lot of our coaches feel like our kids that get two months off will come back rested mentally and more appreciative of their opportunities.”
One of the most contentious points on KSHSAA’s plan to resume summer workouts was the notion that rural counties less impacted by COVID-19 may be cleared to open facilities sooner than urban counties more heavily hit by the pandemic.
“It’s hard to hold back a county that’s not experiencing as many issue or as many cases,” Holtzman said, “just because a few counties in the state are. That makes it difficult for kids to understand why they’re not provided opportunities. It’s important for us to provide those.”
KSHSAA Executive Director Bill Faflick added that if the state was forced to wait for every county to be given the green light, the entire summer and fall would be at risk.
“If we wait for every county and every local health department,” Faflick said, “we might not have any summer at all or even start the fall.”
A pair of proposals from Olathe and Hays that passed gives local school districts the authority to determine academic eligibility of all middle and high school students during the Fall 2020 semester. This was made in response to inequities manifested by Kelly’s closing of schools statewide in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Districts across the state implemented various forms of continuous learning programs. Students without internet access at home potentially fell behind academically, so this measure gives school districts the chance to address those inequities without penalizing students wishing to participate in athletics and other activities.
“That was a big step for KSHSAA to give up some of that responsibility,” said Parsons Athletic Director Barcus said. “They could’ve left their standard as is or dropped it. But they’re doing a good job of dropping it. I don’t think districts will let a student with five Fs stay eligible. It’s not a free pass.”
Kastle worried that the measure showed KSHSAA’s willingness to relax academic standards but conceded that the directive only lasted for one semester.
“What bothered me the most was that some schools posted grades at a certain date,” Kastle said. “That opportunity wasn’t available for every student depending on where schools were when they closed. We’re certainly relaxing academic standards. But it is just for one semester.”
KSHSAA also passed a proposal that maintains the current system for student-athlete physicals and won’t change any date requirements. The association also voted in favor of implementing its change from 18 weeks to one full year of ineligibility following transfers.
Faflick briefly addressed fall sports at Friday’s board of directors meeting. He said that KSHSAA is in the process of drawing up various contingency plans, which include shortening seasons.
“I’m sure that the staff and the association already has things in mind,” Kastle said. “Hopefully in July, the executive board will see those plans. It’l all depends on what happens, whether or not we’re clean or have another outbreak. I’m sure all the schools are thinking about the same things.”
Fall practices are tentatively scheduled to start on Aug. 17. Barcus said districts would need at least a month to prepare for the fall season.
“I would hope any decision comes early-to-mid July,” Barcus said. “If we’re going to start in the middle of August, that can give kids a month to get into the swing of things. If they move the season back, they can wait longer. But school districts probably need about a month to get ready.”
Other news and notes
— Faflick said KSHSAA’s budget was hit hard because of the pandemic. He said the association is participating in the Small Business Association Paycheck Protection Program and that KSHSAA saw about half of its basketball revenue cut.
— KSHSAA is producing its own survey to distribute to member schools regarding the public-private classification debate.
— KSHSAA approved to move boys and girls tennis to a two-year classification cycle, similar to what football utilizes.
— KSHSAA added vaping and other electronic devices to a list of banned substances. Any student that vapes is now considered to not be in good standing with KSHSAA.
— Transfer students from non-member schools (i.e. homeschooled students) are barred from competing at the varsity level for one full year.
— Boys and girls tennis teams will be allowed to compete in four matches or tournaments that start prior to 3 p.m. CT. The previous limitation was two.
— KSHSAA will allow spirit competition groups attuning in-state events to be ranked if the event is designated by the association.