KSHSAA approves revised summer schedule

After a premature ending to the winter high school sports season in Kansas and a complete loss of the spring season, plenty of questions remained what the summer would look like due to COVID-19.

On Friday, the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s Board of Directors provided a little bit of clarity. By a 48-22 vote, the board approved a one-time adjustment to the summer schedule laid out in its handbook.

Among the changes are when summer contact between coaches and athletes can begin, mandates on the structure of organized participation and the extension of the time frame to conclude team camps.

The message was clear. If and when health departments across the state open their counties back up, some sort of normalcy for high school activities should resume.

“We are anxious to focus on getting kids back to doing something and providing that opportunity,” KSHSAA executive director Bill Faflick said during Friday’s Zoom meeting with the board of directors. “We know that there are some challenges to some starting and some not being able to start right away, but quite honestly if we’re not working with these kids, someone else is going to. The reality is letting them participate when they have the opportunity, but still having some regulation in place when contact can take place and a progression to go through.

“Let’s get them engaged and give them the opportunity to participate.”

Among the changes approved under Friday’s addendum to the handbook were:

• Start of summer contact can begin on June 1. The original date outlined in the handbook was May 23. The date falls at the end of Phase 2 of Gov. Laura Kelly’s timetable for re-opening the state.

• Acclimation guidelines put in place requiring two weeks of conditioning prior to organized competition for all sports except football, which will require three weeks (15 days minimum) of conditioning before organized competition.

• Elimination of the July moratorium, which previously had been scheduled for July 2-8, where coaches were unable to work with their student-athletes.

• Extension of deadline for team camps from July 18 to Aug. 15.

• A team vs. team camp is permissible for football, including college contact camp, but must be conducted by third party for a maximum of two days after the required conditioning period.

While most of the 70 board members in attendance were in agreement that resuming organized high school sports during the summer was imperative, there were contentions on what the schedule should look like.

As a state, Kansas has recorded 4,746 total confirmed COVID-19 cases with 131 deaths as of 4 p.m. Saturday, according to the Kansas Department for Health and Environment. However, the disparity across the state for those cases is great.

A large bulk of the cases have been confirmed in Ford County (770), Wyandotte County (755), Seward County (539), Johnson County (486), Finney County (451), Sedgwick County (391) and Leavenworth County (386). A total of 100 counties in Kansas had 51 or fewer documented cases of COVID-19 with 25 having no recorded cases.

The arguments against the proposed addendum centered on the fact that some schools may not be allowed to return to activity as early as June 1, giving the schools in counties that do an advantage.

“The concern is that we could possibly have an area of the state, a small or large area, where the health authorities do not open up and approve this while others do,” Oswego principal Rob Schneeberger said. “Now we’ll have a complete imbalance with what is being done across the state by all the different schools.”

His sentiments were echoed by several others.

“Our conference had a conversation and several of our schools are in counties that have been hardest hit by this,” Shawnee Heights principal Ed West said. “They also were concerned about the equity standpoint allowing decisions to be made on a county-by-county basis rather than the KSHSAA taking a wholistic approach to when the summer season can start.”

Some argued in favor of waiting until July 1 for summer activity to begin, to allow a greater chance of all schools being able to return to activity at the same time.

However, with the uncertainty of how things will play out with COVID-19 over the next month ahead of the June 1 start date, putting a plan in place — one the could be addressed with an emergency board meeting if things worsen — made sense.

And even schools in some of the hardest hit counties by COVID-19 argued that getting a schedule set was imperative, even if some of the inequities did arise.

“Our county is one of the hardest hit in the state and we’re probably a month away from peaking,” said Dodge City-Commanche athletic director Justin Briggs. “But we can’t hold the rest of the state up because of two or three counties that might be behind.”

Faflick agreed.

“This is a voluntary opportunity — you don’t have to participate,” he said. “Let’s let those kids go forward and participate if they can. We had really long discussions as a staff about when the right time to go was. If we wait longer, what’s the number we wait for? 50 percent, is that the number? Well, for the 50 percent that can it is, but for the other 50 percent it’s not. 75 percent? I know if I’m a teacher and I can teach 75 percent of the kids in Kansas, I want to do that and let them learn.

“This to me is not preparing for a championship, it’s just providing activities governed by and led by teachers in the community. ... There are concerns that there are inequities, but there’s an overriding concern that we allow things to happen when it’s safe to do so and not hold hostage — that’s a terrible phrase to use — some schools or districts because there might be a few that can’t.”

On Friday, the board also voted 67-3 to classify for tennis on a two-year cycle similar to the classification format used in football. The board also voted 65-4 to allow tennis programs to schedule up to four tournaments that may start prior to 3 p.m., double the previous allowance of two.

The board also voted to maintain the implementation of a one-year ineligibility period following a non-move related transfer.