The Watertown football team congregates on the sidelines of the school’s turf field for a water break during practice last season. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

In anticipation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo providing more guidance on how schools will be proceeding in September amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has outlined six school-reopening scenarios and detailed proposals for jump-starting high school sports.

In the report, the NYSPHSAA said “the proposal should serve as a ‘starting point’ or ‘framework’ to assist the task force in providing guidance and recommendations, if needed.”

The report also states: “Until guidance and direction is provided by Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Education Department, nothing can be decided upon by NYSPHSAA. At this time, there is no definitive date for a decision to be made.”

It is believed that some form of guidance should come from the governor sometime next week.

The proposals are crafted to provide as much of an opportunity for student-athletes to participate in their sport in the 2020-2021 school year as possible. This could mean sacrificing state championships that are considered a lower priority.

If state championships are cut, postseasons could end with the typical sectional playoffs or possibly championships based on region, i.e. upstate and downstate championship or regional championships.

The proposals for each scenario takes into the account the risk level associated with each sport, breaking them down into three categories: high risk, moderate risk and low risk.

Schools will open with in-person learning, including athletic participation.

Proposal: Changes won’t be needed to the schedule; schools would need to follow social distancing guidelines.

Schools will operate with hybrid learning, a combination of in-person and virtual learning, and athletics will be permitted.

Schools will open up with only distance/virtual learning and athletic participation will be permitted.

Proposal for 2 and 3: Seasons would have to be adjusted depending on the severity of the social distancing restrictions. More high-risk sports could be played later in the school year with low risk being played in the fall.

The NYSPHSAA Task Force broke it down into two adjusted seasons.

Season Adjustment A

Fall: Aug. 24 to Dec. 5 with low risk sports being played. According to this plan, those sports would be baseball, softball, outdoor track and field (girls and boys), golf (girls and boys), tennis (girls), swimming and diving (girls), lacrosse (girls) and bowling (girls and boys).

Winter: Nov. 16 to March 20 with moderate risk sports being played: basketball (girls and boys), indoor track and field (girls and boys), gymnastics, swimming and diving (boys), ice hockey, skiing (girls and boys), volleyball (girls and boys) and unified bowling.

Spring: March 15 to June 12 with high/moderate risk sports being played: football, soccer (girls and boys), field hockey, cross country (girls and boys), lacrosse (boys), competitive cheer, tennis (boys), wrestling and unified basketball.

A conflict that would arise with this plan would be student-athletes having to decide which sport to participate in if they typically participate in multiple. Facility use could also cause conflicts.

Season Adjustment B

The fall and spring seasons will be broken into two parts to limit the amount of activity, and the trade off will be that individual sports seasons would be shorter.

Fall season I: Aug. 24 to Oct. 17, low risk sports: golf (girls and boys), tennis (girls and boys), bowling (girls and boys) and cross country (girls and boys).

Fall season II: Oct. 19 to Dec. 12, low risk sports: Swimming and diving (girls and boys), gymnastics, volleyball (girls and boys).

Winter season: Jan. 4 to Feb. 19, moderate risk sports: basketball (girls and boys), indoor track and field (girls and boys), ice hockey, skiing (girls and boys) and unified bowling.

Spring season I: March 1 to April 24, high/moderate risk: football, soccer (girls and boys), field hockey, competitive cheer and unified basketball.

Spring season II: April 26 to June 12, high/moderate risk: baseball, softball, outdoor track and field, lacrosse (girls and boys), wrestling and unified basketball.

Schools will operate in a hybrid learning system, but athletics will NOT be permitted at the start of the year.

Schools will open up with distanced learning and will NOT include athletic participation to start the year.

Proposals for 4 and 5: In the event that athletics will not be permitted at the start of the school year, the NYSPHSAA could plan to begin all sports at the beginning of January.

In their report, they stated: “Instead of canceling the fall season and the start of winter season, sports seasons will be realigned into three 10-week seasons starting in January, with game limits reduced, and the potential of having an even later start and a further condensed season if sports are not able to begin in early January.”

The hope is that starting athletics in January, though they are not allowed to start at the beginning of the school year, will allow school districts the “opportunity to adapt to a new school setting before addressing extracurricular participation challenges.”

In scenarios four and five, all sports will be separated into three reduced seasons ranging from Jan. 4 to June 12 with each season slightly overlapping.

Season I: Jan. 4 to March 13: basketball (girls and boys), bowling (girls and boys), gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track and field (girls and boys), skiing (girls and boys) and swimming (boys).

Season II: March 1 to May 8: football, competitive cheer, wrestling, cross country, (girls and boys), field hockey, soccer (girls and boys), swimming (girls), volleyball (girls and boys) and unified bowling.

Season III: April 5 to June 12: baseball, softball, golf (girls and boys), lacrosse (girls and boys), tennis (girls and boys), outdoor track and field (girls and boys) and unified basketball.

The governor could decide that schools will operate differently based on their region based on how that region has been affected by the coronavirus and how they are currently handling the situation.

Proposal: In the event that there are regional differences to the start of the upcoming school year, “sports seasons should be amended on a sectional or regional basis with the focus of engaging students to provide participation opportunities.”

A lack in statewide consistency would result in no state championship.

All the dates mentioned above are tentative and subject to change when a more concrete plan is made.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Sports Writer

Beat writer for Section 3 high school football, Frontier League boys and girls basketball, Frontier League baseball and Frontier League softball.

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