Sports News

Corry Area School District unveiled its athletics health and safety plan during a presentation prior to Monday night's school board meeting and it was unanimously approved by board members.

Before middle and high schools can return to sports, the state requires each school district to develop a health and safety plan that's approved by the school board and then post the plan to the district's website.

"We're excited to be able to get kids back to some activity, however, we also want to maintain and do the best job we can to make sure everyone remains healthy and safe," CASD Director of Secondary Education Bill West said. "Activities are going to look a little different for a while as we phase in our plan, but the reason we're doing that is to try to maintain the health of everyone involved - the coaches, staff and athletes."

West said this plan really is only for voluntary summer activities, such as conditioning, open gyms, skills and drills, and it does not address competition with other schools.

"I think it's important for everybody to understand this plan that we presented Monday night really addresses summer voluntary activities," he said. "My belief is as we get closer to the fall sports season, this plan will be amended or revised, or a new plan will be required. There's going to need to be additional guidance set forth from the state and the PIAA before we're going to say 'here's what fall sports looks like.'"

CASD's plan is broken down into four levels, which correspond with Gov. Tom Wolf's phased reopening plan. Students and their parents must sign a participation waiver before they can take part in summer workouts. Coaches must also educate their athletes about the health and safety protocols before workouts begin. Students should not attend workouts or practices if they feel sick.

In all levels where in-person workouts are permitted, all coaches and students must be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to the activity. The screenings include a contactless temperature check and a verbal questionnaire of possible coronavirus-related symptoms, which must be recorded along with team attendance.

Any person with a temperature higher than 100.4 or who had COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to take part in workouts and should contact his or her primary care provider. A clearance may be required to return to play.

Symptoms included on the questionnaire are: loss of taste and/or smell, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and vomiting or diarrhea. Athletes and coaches will also be asked if they have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

In all levels with in-person workouts, adequate cleaning schedules will be implemented for all athletic facilities to mitigate any communicable disease. Facilities will be cleaned prior to athletes' arrival. Post-workout, team gatherings and high-touch areas should be cleaned more often.

Students should refrain from sharing clothing and towels and they should be washed after each practice, including pinnies. Athletic equipment used by multiple individuals (balls, shields, tackling dummies, shot put, discus, pole vault, etc.) should be cleaned intermittently during practice and events as deemed necessary.

Hand sanitizer should be used periodically as resources allow.

The district recommends that coaches divide athletes into small groups during workouts and practices.

"One of the things we're recommending to the coaches is to group the kids in pods or little groups. We're not encouraging football to bring 50 kids in all at one time," West said. "One of the reasons we're trying to encourage people to do that is because of the need to contact trace and also quarantine if there's a positive case."

For example, if a varsity sport is doing a workout with 10 to 12 kids and one of those students, or the coach, is diagnosed with COVID-19, then there would be contact tracing to all of the kids that were working out together and those kids would have to quarantine, along with the coach, for 14 days.

Corry's plan breaks down its sports into classifications, which are:

. High risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants, such as football, wrestling and cheerleading (stunts).

. Moderate risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants or intermittent close contact or group sports that use equipment that can't be cleaned between participants, such as basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, pole vault, high jump, long jump and seven-on-seven football.

. Low risk: Sports that can be done with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between uses by competitors, such as running events, cross-country, throwing events, swimming, golf, weightlifting and sideline cheerleading.

Moderate- and high-risk sports may move to a low-risk category with non-contact modifications.

Here are the four levels of CASD's athletics plan:

. Level 1 (PA state red phase): No in-person gatherings allowed. Athletes and coaches may communicate via online meetings. Athletes may participate in individual home workouts. All school facilities remain closed per state guidelines.

. Level 2 (PA state yellow phase): Activities may include team meetings, open gym, kick around, conditioning, running events, cross-country, throwing events, swimming, golf and sideline cheerleading, but gatherings must be limited to 25 or less, including coaches, per practice area.  Low-risk sports practices may begin. Modified noncontact practices may begin for moderate- and high-risk sports and include social distancing where applicable. Weight rooms are closed. Students must bring their own water bottle and they cannot be shared. CASD will provide donated water bottles to athletes who don't have their own. Hydration stations (such as water coolers and water fountains) should not be utilized.

. Level 3 (PA state green phase): Low-, moderate-, and high-risk practices and low- and moderate-risk competitions may begin as per state, local and PIAA guidelines. Team activities may include basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, pole vault, high jump, long jump, 7-on-7 football, etc. Gatherings may not exceed 250 people per state guidelines. When not directly participating in practices or contests, social distancing should be considered and applied whenever possible. Students must bring their own water bottle and they cannot be shared. Hydration stations may be used but must be cleaned after every practice or event. Weight room reopens and athletes wipe down and sanitize equipment between each use. Appropriate clothing and shoes should be worn at all times in the weight room to minimize sweat from transmitting onto equipment surfaces.

. Level 4 (PA state green phase): High-risk sports may begin full person-to-person contact and competition.

"We will move all sports to level four as long as there's no issues, and in that, the high-risk sports - football, wrestling and cheerleading stunting - would be able to do more of their normal full contact type activities," West said.

The timeline for the implementation of CASD's plan is as follows: Wednesday, June 24 - coaches education program; Monday, June 29 - all middle and high school sports may start voluntary summer activities under level 2; Monday, July 6 - sports may operate under level 3; Monday, July 13 - sports may operate under level 4.

"Part of our belief in that is we have kids that haven't done anything for four months. We don't want to go full-bore into five-on-five basketball or that type of event. We want to start with the conditioning, the skill work and eventually we will lead up to some more of those full-bore type of activities. It's also a way for us to monitor how the plan implementation is going and get a feel for what this is going to look like," West said.

Coaches were permitted to begin educating their student athletes and distributing waivers starting Thursday, June 25.

In the event the school is closed due to COVID-19, all athletics and extracurricular activities will be canceled or postponed.

Physicals are not needed for student athletes to participate in summer workouts, but they will need to get a physical from their primary care physician before mandatory practices begin, which are tentatively slated for mid-August pending PIAA approval. The school will not provide sports physicals this year due to the circumstances.

The complete athletics health and safety plan can be found on the school district's website, www.corrysd.net, along with the student athlete participation waiver.

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