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Written by: Billy Splain on Thursday, May 28th, 2020
Last Wednesday during the PIAA Board of Directors meeting, the board voted to allow districts to resume their sports programs once the county in which they reside is moved to Governor Wolfs planned “green phase” of the Covid 19 recovery phase. ( https://pafootballnews.com/news/piaa-discusses-what-the-return-to-fall-sports-might-look-like-and-how-we-get-there/) Since then, some confusion has arisen as to when schools would be allowed to restart their programs. When the Department of Education announced all districts are closed for the rest of the school year, a statement was released by PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi that July 1 would be the beginning of the new school year for sports, meaning that, according to the PIAA, no teams could practice until the official end of the school year, June 30. According to Lombardi, that means no teams — including those in fall and winter sports — can have workouts or informal practices before July 1.
On Thursday, May 22, the Department of Health released their guidelines for Summer Recreation, Camps and Pools. (see link > Frequently asked questions) Those guidelines addressed the question “Are organized team sports permitted during the Governor’s phased reopening plan?” The answer was : “Organized sports are only permitted in counties in the green phase of the Governor’s phased reopening plan. Organized team sports and events are defined as physical activity directed by adult or youth leaders that involves rules and formal practice and competition. This includes school and club sports as well as youth and adult formal activities. Physical activity conducted as part of summer programming is allowed. Activities and games with little or no physical contact are recommended. ”
That last sentence, we need guidance and that’s why we (PIAA) reached out to the Governors office for clarification” said Lombardi. “So using that example, their recommendation is probably no when it comes to basketball and football. We are still awaiting a response.” As for the guidelines above, they DO also include such organizations as Little League and YMCA type sports, which added to the confusion.
That same day Governor Wolf moved several counties into his green phase beginning May 29 and this is where the confusion came in. The question has now become “who will release the districts from the restrictions since the districts were mandated to be closed by the state Dept of Ed. ” The most common question we are asked is “who is going to allow us to start our programs? With districts closed, we aren’t allowed access to our facilities.” According to Lombardi, “there are a lot of moving pieces that have to come together”. First the Department of Education has to release those districts from the June 30 restriction date. At that point, Lomboardi says “it would then be up to each district as to how to proceed because, per the meeting last week, once the district is allowed to reopen they could then restart their programs IF they so choose to do so.”
Another conundrum that has arisen is what to do in the case of a school district that is divided by more than one county. This Friday, a portion of the Danville district will reside in the “green” county of Montour while another portion will remain in the “yellow” phase, Northumberland County. Most of the facilities are in Montour county but, in Berwick, the high school is in Luzerne county while the football facilities are in Columbia County. District 10’s Wilmington is the same way, part in Mercer and part in Lawrence but what’s even more confusing is the line crosses in the middle of the schools campus. Then you have a situation like the Hazleton district which resides in THREE counties. Once again, Lombardi says “it would be up to the individual district to decide how to proceed. I would imagine that the Department of Education would have to provide guidance for thme for that type of situation”.
As soon as the PIAA has received clarification from the Department of Education and the governors office, PAFootballNews will update you.
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