As WIAA waits on state-government mandates, it offers glimpse of return-to-play planning, including potential fall sports start dates

As the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) awaits input from the state department of health as it prepares a return-to-play guidance for schools statewide, it shed light on current plans for high school athletics to return in the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release Wednesday, the WIAA said it plans to begin the fall sports season on time (Aug. 19 for football/Aug. 24 for other sports), even if schools statewide are closed to in-person learning. Its top contingency plan is a delayed start to the first week of September (Sept. 5 for football/Sept. 7 for other sports).

“The WIAA Executive Board and staff recognize that participation will need to take place in a setting that does not jeopardize the health and well-being of students or their communities,” the WIAA stated in its release, “which is why we will continue to think creatively as an organization while also working with health officials at the state level.”

It also indicated that if schools are closed in COVID-19 hotspots, the WIAA will conduct a regular season or state championship with the remaining schools that are open. 

The WIAA has designated sub-committees to prepare specific timelines, guidelines and contingency plans for each fall sport. Those sub-committees are made up of coaches, athletic directors and WIAA staff.

This, of course, is all speculation. Nothing will be finalized until input is received from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), the Office of the Governor or the Washington Office of Superintendent Public Instruction (OSPI).

Here are the WIAA’s official responses to questions asked to each state by the National Federation of State High School Associations in May:

NFHS Return-To-Play Questions

1. Will the WIAA conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if schools statewide are closed to in-person learning (apart from regularly scheduled school breaks)?

Though many large schools and urban schools may only have distance learning, the WIAA intends to conduct a regular season and/or championships assuming the DOH supports the recommendation. At this time, the WIAA plans to begin the fall season as scheduled but is also examining a delayed start of September 7, 2020 (September 5 for football) as its primary contingency option.

2. Will the WIAA conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if schools are closed only in COVID-19 “hotspots” in Washington (excluding participants from schools that are closed)? 

Although not ideal, the WIAA intends to conduct a regular season and/or championships even if all schools are not able to participate.

3. Will the WIAA conduct an athletics/activities regular season in sports deemed “lower-risk” for COVID-19 transmission while cancelling athletics/activities considered “higher-risk”?

The WIAA intends to conduct all scheduled fall athletics/activities that are approved by the DOH.

4. Are there recommendations unique to Washington that we need to take into consideration when developing our 2020-2021 plans? This could include modified seasons, modified rules, etc. 

The WIAA intends to commence sport/activity-specific work groups to recommend and evaluate modifications to rules. It is also recommended the Executive Board prioritize modified season options and determine decision deadlines.

Here are the committees for each fall sport, as compiled by WIAA assistant executive directors:

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