High schools: OSSAA discusses guidelines, options for 2020-21 athletic calendar

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Norman High football coach Rocky Martin watches players run drills last month at Harve Collins Field.

Plenty of questions are pouring into the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association’s offices these days.

The OSSAA is actively monitoring the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which already shut down the association’s 2020 state basketball tournaments in March and canceled spring sports from reaching the postseason.

The OSSAA has yet to postpone or cancel any sports this fall for its member high schools, but the athletic calender is as fluid as it’s ever been.

OSSAA executive director David Jackson met with school administrators during a Zoom videoconference call on Monday. He used the 40-minute session to answer a few commonly asked questions the OSSAA has received over the summer.

Here are a few highlights from the call:

• Up to the districts: The OSSAA will allow districts to use its best discretion in deciding what constitutes a health outbreak that forces the school to shut down.

Jackson emphasized each district’s role in sharing information and working together through the pandemic.

The OSSAA encourages schools forced to postpone contests because of an outbreak to work with their opponents to reschedule. For district games, the OSSAA is asking schools to reschedule within a 48-hour period.

Schools will also be able to set their own safety guidelines for home athletic events.

“We received some questions on how to manage fans, [whether] to require masks, to separate them. That's gonna be your call at your venue,” Jackson said. “And that's part of that situation that we're asking you to communicate to the people coming to your venue, please let them know whatever your plan is, let our schools know that in advance, so they can properly prepare their people coming to your venue, but that's a decision made locally how you want to manage that.”

• Distance learning: The OSSAA said students, who opt into virtual learning programs within their school district, will still be eligible for extracurricular activities.

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions from school districts to the OSSAA, Jackson said during the Monday Zoom call.

“If you've got a football player that is taking your virtual curriculum, they would be allowed to come back and participate on your football team,” Jackson said, “as long as they're on your campus at least that one period during the day.”

Norman Public Schools announced last week it would offer students the option to enroll in traditional in-person instruction, virtual instruction or a blended option this fall.

• Flipping calendars: Jackson confirmed the OSSAA has discussed at length the possibility of switching seasons for certain sports. He used shifting football into the spring and baseball to the fall as an example.

Jackson said the OSSAA’s biggest concern with flipping seasons is the lack of a guarantee the fall or spring will offer the best opportunity to play.

“That helped lead us to just go forward as planned,” Jackson said, “because the information that we've received doesn't point to either of the fall or spring semesters being better than the other.”

• Later start date: Local districts might force the OSSAA’s hand in shifting the athletic calendar.

Jackson did not give specifics, but fall sports could start later if enough schools delay the beginning of their 2020-21 academic year.

“If it looks as though we've got a good number of our schools looking to start later for safety reasons, that absolutely could impact when we would start our activity. So, that's one of those situations where we would ask you to stay tuned on a daily basis for information out of this office because that could very well change.”

• Finding time: The OSSAA will consider moving a fall sport’s season into the spring if it is necessary. Although, it might not necessarily force all fall sports to move with it.

This option will allow for some sports to finish their season, while others are delayed into the next semester, depending on the circumstances.

The OSSAA admits it might have to condense schedules, especially if health concerns arise again in the spring.

Jackson said it’s a priority the OSSAA has a spring sports season after it was mostly lost in 2019.

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