State revises COVID-19 rules on school sports

Limited workouts OK for students in counties with ‘high’ transmission rates

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category icon Camas, COVID-19 coverage, Latest News, News, Schools, Sports, Washougal
Washougal High School football coach Dave Hajek talks to his players during a Nov. 18, 2019 practice session. Hajek is optimistic that his team can begin practicing after the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released new return-to-play guidelines earlier this month. (Post-Record file photo)

Camas and Washougal high school student-athletes won’t participate in any official competitions for at least two more months, but new guidelines from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) have given them hope that they’ll be able to return to the practice field soon.

On Oct. 6, the WIAA announced new guidelines for when and how high school athletics and activities can resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines, which align with new requirements from Governor Jay Inslee’s office and the Washington State Department of Health, allow for teams to hold training sessions as long as certain safety protocols are in place.

“These revised guidelines give greater flexibility to school administrators to offer education-based athletics and activities and meet the demand of their students and communities,” the WIAA said in a news release. “The WIAA executive board and staff are pleased with the work that has been done to allow students to be more involved with their schools, as participation in the school setting provides safer and more equitable opportunities for students, especially during this time.”

Camas High School athletic director Rory Oster said that he’s pleased with the new guidelines.

“The new guidelines from the WIAA are a step in the right direction to have the opportunity to give student-athletes a chance to work out with some peers, which is much needed right now for their social and emotional health,” he said. “I am proud that the leadership of the WIAA is doing everything they can to provide any opportunities possible to student-athletes during these trying times.”

The new guidelines deem the virus spread to be “high” if a county has more than 75 cases per 100,000 people. On Oct. 5, the Clark County Department of Health reported 95.6 cases per 100,000.

But the WIAA is allowing teams in “high-risk” counties to hold workouts if players are limited to groups of six in separate parts of the field or court and separated by a buffer zone.

“Head coaches of our programs have the option of putting together workouts for our student-athletes during this WIAA open-coaching period,” Oster said. “These are optional and at the choice of the head coach of that program. Coaches will be working with pods of six student-athletes during these workouts, and the assigned pods of six students for each program will remain the same until the open coaching period ends Dec. 18. Right now we have five programs that have turned their workout plans into me for approval.”

Washougal High School (WHS) football coach Dave Hajek said that he hopes his players can gather for workouts soon.

“I think they are allowing the districts more flexibility to make those decisions,” he said. “The state is trying its best to provide some opportunities for the student-athletes while taking the health of their communities into consideration. (We are) not (practicing) as of right now. However, we are optimistic that we will be able to start something anytime now. We have some student-athletes that are finding ways to get workouts in, whether that is doing drills on their own or lifting and doing conditioning.”

Traditional winter sports, including basketball, wrestling, bowling, gymnastics and boys swimming and diving, are set to begin during the last week of December in Season 2 of the WIAA’s modified sports calendar.

Football practice is scheduled to begin in mid-February as part of Season 3.

“I feel as if we will be having our season this spring,” Hajek said. “Obviously we are all hoping for the best.”

Other traditional fall sports are also set to start on March 1 as part of Season 3. Those would be followed by traditional spring sports in Season 4, which begins in late April.

Oster said that CHS will allow its teams to compete only if the school is open for in-person instruction.