A final decision on the fate of fall sports from the Kansas State High School Activities Association will have to wait until next week.
The same day the Kansas State Board of Education voted down Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order to delay the opening of schools until after Labor Day, KSHSAA held a meeting with its executive board to analyze the path forward.
The answer the board came up with? KSHSAA will survey superintendents across the state to determine a consensus on when schools will open for 2020-21 before making a final decision.
The executive board will reconvene early next week to potentially take action on fall sports after receiving the results of the survey.
“I want to rely heavily on what we hear from them,” said Mike Kastle, who serves on both the Parsons USD 503 board and the KSHSAA board. “My fear is that it’ll be like the state board and be a 50-50 split. Keeping local control is high on my preferences. We’ve got to be fluid. There’s no doubt this will change. It could change before we meet next week. But I think this was the best thing we can do now.”
According to Kastle, the association is not considering flipping the fall and spring seasons. Kelly said on Monday that flipping seasons could be an option for KSHSAA to consider.
“Right now, everything is on the table except flipping seasons,” Kastle said.
“Those spring kids already lost a season. If we have to cancel again, they’ll have lost another one. We’ll do more condensing with our schedules. I really don’t think there’s much movement to flip the seasons. We need to give the spring kids an opportunity they didn’t get.”
While KSHSAA is seeking out more information from its schools, the board as a whole expressed a desire to try to start practices on its original start date of Aug. 17.
“The cases are not going down. They continue to increase. That causes me some concern. Sitting here on July 22, I don’t know for sure. At some point, we’ve got to move forward. My initial reaction is to move forward with the fall,” said Ken Stonebraker, the Salina South High School athletic director and Class 5A representative on the KSHSAA executive board.
Monty Marlin, the Sublette High School principal and Class 2A representative, said Wednesday’s 5-5 vote by the KSBE to reject Kelly’s order is emblematic of statewide division on how to proceed with education and activities.
“When you have a 5-5 vote, that shows you that we’re divided across the state,” Marlin said. “From small school situations, 2A and 1A football would not be opposed to starting Aug. 17. I’m not sure about schools in the Kansas City and Wichita area.”
Roger Perkins, the Southern Cloud USD 334 superintendent and Class 1A representative for KSHSAA, said superintendents in his area are leaning toward a delayed start to the school year.
“Most of our superintendents are looking to push back the start of school a week to 10 days,” Perkins said. “There’s a backlog of getting schools set up to take temperatures. I’m not sure we’re ready to start sports on Aug. 17.”
KSHSAA Executive Director Bill Faflick said that getting activities started could actually be a safer alternative for kids who otherwise participate in club sports in which health isn’t as strictly related — a cluster of COVID-19 cases in Kansas stems from a travel basketball tournament in Wichita.
“The focus needs to be on participation, on those growth opportunities and connecting them to school,” Faflick said. “One of the benefits of coming back to activities is having administrative oversight so that kids aren’t out doing their own thing.”
Kastle said that if enough school districts indicate in the KSHSAA survey that they’ll delay the school year, they’ll prepare an agenda item for the KSHSAA board of directors to delay the fall season.
The board of directors includes representatives from every league in the state.
“If it comes back that the majority of schools will move forward as planned, we’ll make that same decision,” Kastle said. “If it’s not that, we’ll prepare an agenda item for the board of directors to possibly postpone.”
KSHSAA also approved a policy allowing students who are enrolled in distance learning to be eligible to participate in sports and other activities sponsored by the association.
“When we first started talking about it, we were kind of split,” Kastle said. “But now the schools have a choice. This gives schools who want to give those students to participate an opportunity. Without this change, anybody who did remote would not be eligible.”
KSHSAA also approved its considerations for a return to activities, which contains health guidelines and other mitigation strategies for activities in the midst of COVID-19.
The plan includes general guidelines as well as activity-specific guidelines recommended by the association, although each school can set its own parameters.
Mask-wearing by all students and staff except those directly participating in an activity, as well as frequent sanitation of equipment and other social distancing measures, are among the considerations passed by KSHSAA.
“We have to do everything we can in our power to ensure that our coaches and athletes are taken care of. We can’t cut corners and ignore the obvious,” Labette County USD 506 Superintendent John Wyrick said.
Now the association awaits responses from schools to its survey as it considers its move for the fall season.
“We’re anxious to take next steps as appropriate as we resume our interscholastic activities for member schools,” Faflick said.