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State gives all-clear for student-athletes to return to campus

High school coaches and athletes got the news last week they’ve been waiting to hear for more than two months: It’s time to get back on campus and get to work in the hopes of a return to organized sports in the fall.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s newest amended Safer At Home order, announced Thursday, will allow students back on school campus a week earlier than previously thought. The original order said June 8; the new order says June 1.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey said he and his team will continue to monitor schools in the state, including high school sports.

Red Bay’s Shane Nichols will be starting a volleyball team from scratch this year, and he said he is glad to get potential players on campus to start evaluations.

“This is big. It will be good for the kids to get back to a routine and get back to normal,” said Nichols. “The kids are excited about starting volleyball. We had about 70-80 interested.

“This will pose a lot of challenges,” Nichols added. “It is new, and it will take more time to implement things. So, the more time we get, the better off we will be.”

Mandatory summer workouts are not allowed by the AHSAA, but schools will be able to return to weightlifting, conditioning and skills workouts June 1.

Summer competitions were cancelled by the AHSAA two weeks ago.

“The AHSAA, its Central Board of Control, along with the Alabama State Department of Education, has updated its guidelines regarding summer activities,” AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese said. “The biggest change is our schools may reopen June 1, a week earlier than the June 8 date previously discussed. We are elated to have a definite date for our coaches and student-athletes to return to their schools, where they can continue to experience valuable educational lessons through athletics.”

The AHSAA has committees that are still exploring when and how high school sports competition will be able to return in the fall.

Some key rules for the return campus and practice include:

  • All student-athletes must have a current pre-participation physical, 2020-21 Consent Release and concussion form on file prior to participating in summer activities.
  • Facial coverings are recommended to the greatest extent possible but should be worn when an activity requires a person to be closer than 6 feet and when entering common areas.
  • Only school personnel, coaches, athletic trainers and student-athletes should be present during activities. Non-essential personnel should not be present.
  • All equipment and surfaces, including weights, benches, balls, bats, helmets, gloves and so forth, should be cleaned after each group activity, individual workout or skill development session. Avoid sharing equipment or personal items such as towels, cups, water bottles and gloves when possible.

Each individual school system is responsible for monitoring health guidelines with its schools.