PORT ANGELES — While the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has announced some broad guidelines for the return of prep sports and the Port Angeles School District could begin some in-person instruction as early as Oct. 5, it will likely still be awhile before local student-athletes return to practice or scrimmages.
Clallam County schools still have prep winter sports scheduled to begin as early as late December and that has not changed, said Port Angeles High School Athletic Director Dwayne Johnson. Johnson will participate in a “virtual luncheon” chat with Port Angeles School District Superintendent Marty Brewer and others at noon Friday to discuss the possibility of schools reopening to in-person instruction and what will be needed for prep sports to return.
That virtual chat can be viewed via Zoom at tinyurl.com/PASDchat. To watch and participate, people must register.
But before prep sports can return, much has to happen first.
The WIAA this week put out an explanation of steps that will be needed for school sports to return. The steps that are needed include: Gov. Jay Inslee recommending the return of prep sports, the state Department of Health providing guidance on required steps to return, risk management reviewing Inslee and the Department of Health recommendations, commitment from local school districts to return to sports and, finally, the WIAA Executive Board reviewing schedules and guidelines for sports and activities.
One of the “key considerations” included in the WIAA guidelines was an “open period” for scrimmages or workouts from Sept. 28 to Nov. 30.
However, Johnson said there won’t be any scrimmages yet, despite that date included in the WIAA letter. He wouldn’t speculate when local athletes could begin workouts again.
“School athletics are totally separate. We want to have kids in school first,” he said.
Sequim athletic director Dave Ditlefsen said those workouts would involve five or fewer athletes working on fundamentals. He said they can only happen in areas where local OKs have been given by health departments. Clallam County is not at that point yet, he said, but he is hopeful that local preps can begin competing again in late December.
“When we get the OK, then we can ease the kids into workouts,” Ditlefsen said.
Port Townsend Athletic Director Patrick Gaffney said the schools, health departments and insurance companies all have to get on the same page. The insurance companies are a big hurdle.
“Trust me, we have coaches ready to go,” Gaffney said. “The WIAA is not the biggest hurdle.”
Johnson said Port Angeles badly wants to return to sports. “The kids need it,” he said.
But, he is stressing to coaches that “small steps and patience is what we need.
“We need to take incremental steps to insure the safety and well-being of our kids,” Johnson said.
In Port Angeles, the school district is eyeing an Oct. 5 date to bring some of the younger grades back for in-person learning. That would begin with kindergarten for two days a week with in-person instruction. Then if all goes well, first-graders could return for two days a week, and so on.
This is all based on Clallam County’s infection rate remaining below 75 per 100,000 population over a two-week period. That rate has been steadily declining and is down to 17 per 100,000, considered in the low risk category. Jefferson County, which has had some in-person school instruction for a few weeks now, is even better at 3 per 100,000. However, Jefferson is in the same mode of no set date yet for workouts.
“It’s important to get back to sports, not just for kids’ physical health, but their mental health, too,” Gaffney said.