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  • Southwest Preps

KSHSAA Summer schedule a go with tweaks, local approvals

The regular summer calendar for high school athletics in Southwest Kansas could be a go, provided local health and school officials allow it to happen.

The KSHSAA Board of Directors passed a guideline for schools to begin their implementation of the 2020-21 athletic year on time, which is June 1, provided health officials allow for it to happen.

And while some areas will be able to participate on time, the Board is also preparing a contingency plan for a potential shortened season for Fall 2020. The estimate is that a school would need about a month of preparation time to get ready for a Fall season.

While some areas may have restrictions in place, the current plan mirrors Governor Laura Kelly's three-week plan to help the state open back up amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And with some counties still with minimal - or any - cases of coronavirus, KSHSAA is allowing individual school systems to consult with local health officials and see when it will be safe to begin the process of preparing for the fall sports season.

Also, according to reports, the KSHSAA Board also dropped some of the restrictions which coaches have as far as limited contact during periods of the summer. This allows for flexibility as to when teams would begin their work toward the fall season. Fall practices, as of now, are still scheduled to begin on August 17th.

The rural areas of the state will benefit the most from this move, which allows for athletes to participate in no more than three hours of strength and conditioning in the first week, and increases that to five hours per week during the second week, with sport-specific drills included. Scrimmages or team camps would be permitted beginning in Week 3, if allowable by health officials.

For football, team camps will be permitted during Week 3, but limited to helmet-only. However, beginning at that point, teams can also participate in 5-on-5 or 7-on-7 scrimmages with other teams, as previously allowed under the summer practice guidelines.

Where it gets sticky - and where most of the contention occurred during the Friday meeting - is that urban areas of the state, which have been hardest hit by COVID-19, may have to wait at least another month, or more, to begin the conditioning process.

Of the 24 schools we currently cover, five could be impacted in such a way. Garden City and Holcomb in Finney County; Dodge City in Ford County; and Liberal and Southwestern Heights in Seward County. All three counties are in the Top 5 statewide in number of cases, and higher rates per resident than most of the other counties in the state.

Detractors to the KSHSAA plan say that some schools could gain a competitive advantage. However, the state feels that holding areas back where the virus has had little or no impact would not be fair to the students.

Holcomb - a GWAC school - is located in Finney County, which has been severely impacted by the virus. Finney County has a total of 498 positive tests for COVID-19. Counties which host other GWAC schools - Scott (1), Grant (7), Sherman (5), Stevens (12) and Thomas (0), have had just 25 positive tests combined.

It's less likely that Holcomb, for example, will be able to start summer activities by June 1, while the other schools - including Scott Community and Colby - should be able to start on time.

The same can be said for Garden City (in Finney), Dodge City (in Ford - which has the second-most cases of COVID-19 in the state) and Liberal (Seward) in the WAC. Barton County (Great Bend) and Ellis County (Hays) have a combined 17 cases. Ford County has 832 cases reported, as of Sunday, and Seward County has 580 positive cases of the virus.

On the other hand, of the schools we cover, several are in low- or no-impact areas. Colby, Weskan, Greeley County, Wallace County and Wichita County are in areas without a reported case of COVID-19. Rolla and Elkhart are in Morton County, which has three reported cases. Hamilton County (Syracuse) has four reported cases, while Gray County (Cimarron) has a total of five reported cases.

Another move the KSHSAA Board made on Friday will also help in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With schools closing for the final two months of learning, and some areas having internet issues, schools will have the choice as to how to determine eligibility for the Fall 2020 season. Provided schools open on time, the usual guidelines will go back in place for the 2020-21 Winter season.

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