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Hartselle defensive linemen participate in drills. Enquirer photos/Russell Frye

State superintendent: High school sports to return this fall

High school sports are on track to return this fall, according to State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey. He made the statement during his press conference June 26 as part of the road map to opening schools this fall.

“We will have extracurricular activities and co-curricular activities on campus. They will look different,” Mackey said. “And we’re still working through some of those, and again, it might change from community to community.”

Mackey said he is in daily contact with the executive director of the AHSAA, Steve Savarese, concerning the return of fall sports. They are looking at different protocols for safety in every competition, for everything from play on the field to social distancing in the stands.

“Can you social distance and physical distance the crowd? Yes. There are ways you can do that,” Mackey said. “We saw that at graduations across the state, where families sat together, but they were six feet away from the next family. So there are ways we can make our gyms and stadiums safer for competition.”

One safety aspect on the table is the cleaning of balls and other equipment during competition.

“There were early on some suggestions to clean the ball between every child touching it,” Mackey said. “Well, anybody who’s played volleyball knows you can’t do that and still play volleyball. But can you use a clean ball every time there’s a stop in the game? You can probably do that. There are ways to make it safer and cleaner than what we’ve done before.”

A spokesperson for the AHSAA said that the association is currently reviewing the information released by the State Department of Education. The AHSAA will begin to put together a plan for sports during meetings following the Independence Day holiday.

“We appreciate Dr. Mackey and his staff for their tireless efforts,” said Savarese. “I am looking forward to working with school administrators and with the AHSAA football and fall sports committees, which meet July 7, in addition to the Alabama Football Coaches Association July 8 to discuss the ALSDE roadmap and the ADPH guidelines.”

The AHSAA will present its recommendations to the Central Board at its July 22 meeting.

Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, said people need to be aware that coronavirus outbreaks are likely when schools reopen and competition returns in the fall.

“I think it has to be a consideration as local officials make decisions about when to resume and how to resume,” Harris said. “We encourage people to think through these things as carefully as possible to make sure that we minimize the risk of transmission of disease to every extent we can.”

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