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Bellefonte presents ‘return to play’ plan

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Bellefonte Area School District athletic director Deb Moore presented a “Return to Play” plan to the school board at last week’s meeting. It will go to a vote at the meeting on Tuesday, June 30.

BELLEFONTE — Like every school in the PIAA, the Bellefonte Red Raiders are hoping to get back on the field.

At last week’s Bellefonte school board meeting, athletic director Deb Moore talked at length about the Bellefonte Area School District’s “Return to Play” plan. The 12-page presentation broke down acclimation phases for off-season workouts and activities from July 1 through Aug. 9.

There are four phases that administrators, coaches, trainers and student-athletes will have to adhere to as districts throughout the state look to return to competition in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Moore, sports have been classifed as higher, moderate and lower risk by the National Federation of

High School Sports.

Higher risk sports include wrestling, football, boys’ lacrosse, competitive cheer and dance. Moderate risk sports include basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, water polo, gymnastics, ice hockey, field hockey, tennis, swimming relays, pole vault, high jump, long jump and girls’ lacrosse. Lower risk events include individual running events, individual swimming events, golf, weightlifting, skiing, sideline cheer and cross country running.

“When we go to return to play, we’re going to identify the individuals with high risk and take precautions with them,” Moore explained. “We’ll educate and update our coaches, our student-athletes and their parents. Our coaches and staff will also do the training.”

The district is currently in Phase One of “Return to Play.” During this phase, student-athletes are expected to be taking part in at least 14 days of isolated conditioning. It is expected to be completed prior to Wednesday, July 1.

In Phase Two, teams are allowed to do activities together, but there are some rules and restrictions in place. They are:

— No groups of more than 10 individuals at a time per indoor facility.

— No groups of more than 25 individuals at a time per outdoor facility.

— Coaches should coordinate with other teams to ensure staggered arrive and departure

times to increase social distancing.

— This should also include staggered times for arrival and departure of the smaller

groups within teams (10 indoor and 25 outdoor).

— Coaches are required to take daily attendance for contact tracing purposes.

— Teams should be broken into groups of no more than 10 student-athletes for indoor.

These groups should remain constant for the next 2 weeks including coaching and staff members assigned to work with each group. Group documentation is required for contact tracing purposes.

— During this period, student-athletes are permitted to participate in non-contact workouts in their small groups.

— Students are permitted to arrive prepared to practice as locker room facilities will not be

available.

— Select restrooms will be available, if needed.

— Masks should be worn by student-athletes when feasible, but not during physical activities. (Example: Prior to and during screening, arrival to practice, departure from practice, etc.)

— Masks/facial shield should be worn by the coach, athletic staff at all times inside and social distancing should be maintained at all possible times.

— Masks/facial shield are optional but recommended for the coaches when outside but if not worn social distancing must be maintained at all times.

— Spectators are not permitted at practices.

— Multisport athletes are not permitted to participate in multiple sport practices. Coaches should encourage multisport athletes to focus on skill development from home as well as participate in virtual team meetings.

— Team meetings/film sessions must be virtual.

In Phase Three, things ramp up a bit. The guidelines for Phase Three are:

— No groups of more than 25 individuals at a time per indoor facility.

— No groups of more than 50 individuals at a time per outdoor facility.

— Coaches should coordinate with other teams to ensure staggered arrival and departure

timesto increase social distancing. (This should also include staggered times for the arrival and departure of the smaller groups within teams (25 indoors and 50 outdoor).

— Coaches are required to take daily attendance for contact tracing purposes.

— Groups of 10 may be merged into groups of no more than 25 students who can practice full contact (within PIAA guidelines of starting dates). Group documentation is required for contact tracing purposes.

— Students are permitted to arrive ready to practice as locker room facilities will not be available.

— Select restroom facilities will be available, if needed.

— Masks should be worn by students when feasible, but not during physical activity (Example: prior to and during screening, arrival at practice, departure from practice, etc.)

— Masks/face shields should be worn by the coach, athletic staff at all times inside and social distancing should be maintained at all possible times.

— Masks/face shields are optional but recommended for the coaches when outside but if not worn social distancing must be maintained at all times.

— Social distancing should be maintained at all possible times.

— Spectators are not permitted at practices.

— Multisport athletes are not permitted to participate in multiple sport practices. Coaches should encourage multisport athletes to focus on skill development from home as well as participate in virtual team meetings.

— Team meetings/film sessions must be virtual.

Phase Four is the final step before fall practices officially begin. The guidelines for Phase Four look like this:

— It occurs after the six-week period is complete and the disease load in the community is declining.

— Teams may then combine to the total group for full practices (within PIAA guidelines for off-season workouts).

— Coaches are required to take daily attendance for contact tracing purposes.

— Coaches should coordinate with other teams to stagger arrival and departure times when possible.

— Students will have access to locker rooms.

— Masks should be worn by students when feasible, but not during physical activity (Example: prior to and during screening, arrival at practice, departure from practice, etc.)

— Masks/face shield should be worn by the coach, athletic staff at all times inside and social distancing should be maintained at all possible times.

— Masks/face shields are optional but recommended for the coaches when outside but if not worn social distancing must be maintained at all times.

— Social distancing should be maintained at all possible times.

— Spectators are not permitted.

— Team meetings/film sessions may be held in person if social distancing guidelines are followed.

Moore said that for fall sports, teams will be expected to stagger their practice times so they are not on the field at the same time.

“They’re not there at the same time. They have to stagger their starts and finishes. If someone wanted to use the stadium from 8 (a.m.) until 10 (a.m.), they’d have to be out and they couldn’t start the next practice until 10:15 if another group wanted it,” Moore explained.

According to Moore, the same protocols will be in place for use of indoor facilities, like weight rooms.

The Bellefonte school board will vote on the “Return to Play” guidelines at the next board meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30.

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