Updated 5 p.m.
GREENSBORO — The N.C. High School Athletic Association may be ready to allow workouts to resume June 15, but Guilford County Schools will take a more "measured" approach, county athletics director Leigh Hebbard says.
High school athletics have been shut down in North Carolina since mid-March, when the COVID-19 outbreak prompted the NCHSAA and the NCISAA, the state's governing body for most private schools, to declare a "dead period" with no activities permitted. The NCHSAA announced Monday that workouts could resume June 15 for its member schools and would be divided into three re-opening phases. But the association left the decision on whether to resume athletics on that date to each school district, and that probably won't be until sometime in July for Guilford County Schools.
"We are reviewing the information from the NCHSAA," Hebbard said in an email today. "We are aware that many are eager to bring sports back, but must be measured in how we manage that process. Before identifying a return date for GCS, we must thoroughly assess our readiness to do so safely. Information will be communicated to staff, parents and the community when plans are finalized."
Matt Harder, Page's athletics director, says he's comfortable with the approach GCS is taking.
"There hasn't been a concrete return date set, which I think is probably a good thing," Harder said. "Everybody is asking questions and everybody wants to know (when sports will resume), but obviously the entirety of our fall sports situation has been so fluid. ... I hope it's sooner rather than later, but it's imperative that we get it right the first time. You just have to, and you have to be as prepared as possible."
John Sullivan, the athletics director for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, said Monday that his county remains in what he described as a “planning process” for a return to high school sports. That falls in line with school districts in Davie County and Surry County as well. Joe Bullis, the interim athletics director for Wilkes County Schools, noted that July 1 was determined as its return for sports roughly three weeks ago, but will re-examine that date this week.
Sullivan said July 6 appears to be a “more feasible” time for Forsyth County to resume. Davidson County schools will resume July 6 as well.
The decision from the NCHSAA comes on the heels of a Zoom meeting Friday, in which the association’s board of directors discussed the latest updates from Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. That was described in a letter signed by Que Tucker, the NCHSAA’s commissioner, released Monday.
“The health and safety measures outlined in this plan were formed utilizing CDC, DHHS, and NCHSAA information at this time,” Tucker said in the letter. “It is recognized, however, that the information and circumstances concerning COVID-19 remain fluid and variable. Therefore, these guidelines are subject to change in conjunction with new knowledge of COVID-19 or changing social condition.”
Phase One guidelines for all sports offered information on facilities, including cleaning schedules and disinfection of hard surfaces such as chairs, weight room equipment and bathrooms. Workouts are limited to no more than 90 minutes, and gatherings at outside sites can include up to 25 people — no more than 10 in gymnasiums — and workouts will be conducted in “pods” of the same athletes training together weekly.
According to the guidelines, athletes will be screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms. Plans for entering and exiting facilities to prevent large gatherings are set to be implemented as well. Locker rooms, dugouts, weight rooms and mat rooms will remain closed during Phase One, and spectators aren’t permitted during practices. Those daily screenings included temperature measurements.
"The state high school association has some good policies and procedures in place, but nobody has ever had to implement them," Harder said. "It's trying to figure out, in large school districts and small school districts, what it's going to look like. That's the hard part. ... We've never faced an athletics situation where you would have this many people potentially at risk or just returning to play."
Patrick Ferlise of the Winston-Salem Journal contributed to this report.