A blurred picture of what school sports will look like this fall is coming into focus as the MIAA's COVID-19 Task Force revealed a report Tuesday on how to improve high school athletics based on best practices from across the country.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's Board of Directors heard recommendations from the COVID-19 Task Force during a virtual meeting with about a month to go until the start of the season.
The MIAA board voted to approve the task force's recommendation to delay the start of the fall season until Sept. 14 in order to get acclimated to new safety guidelines. The approval is dependent on forthcoming state guidelines regarding fall season youth and K-12 sports.
"We do this with an understanding that our students desperately want to see a return to school athletics," MIAA President Jeff Granatino said Tuesday.
"They voted for this with a concern that if there were any positive cases for COVID-19 prior to the start of school, that it could end up hindering the ability for schools to open," said Dr. Keith Crowley, a board member at MIAA and principal of St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers.
The decision ultimately hinges on word from Gov. Charlie Baker, guidelines from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as plans for reopening among individual schools.
"If we can do sports, we'd certainly like to do it, but only if we feel like it can be done in a safe way," said DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley. "That may mean that we have to modify sports."
Riley says similar to the feasibility studies being done in schools right now, he's glad to see the MIAA's COVID-19 Task Force is preparing for all three scenarios for the fall – whether that be in-person, remote or a hybrid of the two.
"We have understood that there is no guarantee that sports will be allowed to take place but, as in the spring, it's been incumbent upon the association to have plans in place if we are eventually told that we can move forward with fall sports," Granatino said.
Riley says he hopes to have more guidance for MIAA officials in early August.
Over the course of the pandemic, national certified master athletic administrators have gathered to discuss best practices, ultimately creating a forum for athletic directors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to discuss their situations, according to the Boston Herald.
The plan mirrors what came out of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association last week, the Herald reports, where games will begin Oct. 1 for a majority of sports, with the football regular season starting Oct. 2.
The MIAA’s COVID-19 Task Force has met weekly over the past two months in an effort to come up with the plan they will present to the MIAA Board of Directors Tuesday.