With over 700 member schools and 40+ activities in fall, summer and spring, there already are enough factors for KSHSAA to consider for each year.
Add in COVID-19 with its continuing uncertainties, and Executive Director Bill Faflick and the Executive Board of KSHSAA certainly have its hands full. With time ticking down to make decisions for the 2020-21 school year ahead, that decision looks to be around July 17.
Faflick, in a virtual Zoom meeting with media members around Kansas, stated that KSHSAA looks to align their decision for the upcoming activities season along with the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), which will announce its plans by July 17.
KSHSAA would like to provide schools with ample time to prepare before the school year starts around August 17.
Now, what will that model look like? It could vary. The latest hot topic has been some states considering “flipping” the spring and fall sports. While anything remains a possibility, KSHSAA currently has its initial hesitancies on a simple flip of sports, particularly changing a spring sport to now in the more treacherous timeline currently.
“That’s a question our staff really has wrestled with,” Faflick said. “The challenge is our spring athletes already lost a full season. If baseball, softball, music don’t get an opportunity to have a competitive season again this year, that would be very damaging. While we looked at it, that doesn’t seem to be a direction we want to go.”
However, that doesn’t rule out alterations to the sports and seasons, or timelines.
“We’ve looked at many models of not just season flipping, but season shifting,” Faflick stated. “What would happen if we lost the fall season? Can we accommodate and provide kids the opportunity to participate in all the activities and look at the length of seasons, but still providing school based opportunities.”
As for school, that model could vary around the state. Depending on the KSDE’s recommendations in the upcoming weeks, schools could vary from the traditional model of students attending school, a hybrid of virtual and in-person, or 100% virtual. When asked if eligibility for activities would depend on the model, Faflick said that as long as the student was enrolled with that school, and the school was able to have activities, the student would be able to participate.
For now, KSHSAA supports Governor Laura Kelly’s mask policy in public, “so we have the best chance to resume school and have the healthiest staff and student population as possible”, which is to have students wear masks while attending activities, workouts or practices, and when not in physical exerting activities.
However, another concern is the physical condition of student-athletes, and the ramp up time needed to safely return to sports, which for KSHSAA is 10 days of conditioning - 15 days for football.
“That cycle is very important,” Faflick said. “Kids have been in air conditioning all summer long, no coach to remind them of water breaks and rigors of fall heat. So that protocol starts all over again on August 17…. Their physical ability now – you can’t flip a switch and go back to March 13, when all activities were suspended.”
But what will the plan look like in two weeks? It’ll be one that KSHSAA will put out, and nort wait further.
“It’s a fluid situation, but one that we can’t wait for guidance and restrictions to be put out,” Faflick said. “We want to be prepared and move forward so we can allow these important activities to take place for these students in our member schools.”