On September 23, 2020

K-12 fall sports can compete starting this weekend

Rice Memorial High School prepares for third-quarter action in a 2018 game. Fall sports can begin this weekend, but football and other sports will look considerably different. Masks are required at all times, except for cross-country runners. Photo by Jim Welch/VTDigger

By Erin Petenko/VTDigger

The state’s K-12 schools can transition to “Step 3” of reopening this Saturday, allowing them to fully play fall sports, officials said at a press conference Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Secretary of Education Dan French said the new rules “still require stringent measures” to limit the spread of Covid-19, but schools have more flexibility on how to implement those measures.

“In spite of the few cases we have seen in schools, the conditions remain very positive,” he said.

The latest data from the press conference report shows four cases tied to K-12 schooling.

The announcement means that schools can host interscholastic outdoor sports competitions, starting this weekend.

State officials wanted to get started now because the fall season will be short, particularly for sports such as bass fishing and golf.

Masks must be worn by all players, coaches, officials, staff and spectators at all times, including during active play. An exception is allowed for cross-country runners while running, so long as physical distancing is maintained between the runners by using staggered starts, for instance.

Schools can also consider using their cafeterias and gymnasiums, which were previously not allowed to be used for normal purposes. Now, those large rooms can reopen with social distancing and sanitization in place. Schools are also now allowed to group students together beyond their “pod,” the small group of students they are exposed to at a given time. For instance, high school students can attend classes in a certain subject, rather than sticking to their homeroom pods.

French said the changes won’t affect the status of in-person instruction. Districts across the state have a variety of learning plans, including hybrid options that combine in-person instruction with remote learning.

The Agency of Education hasn’t yet issued guidance on indoor winter sports, such as basketball. French said the state wants to reopen fall sports first and review the results, with a goal of issuing indoor sports guidance
in October.

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