OREGON — A day after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a revision of the Oregon Health Authority’s pandemic-prevention guidelines that could pave the way for a high school football season for Lincoln County School District athletes, district administrators spent Thursday in a Zoom meeting plotting the best way to move forward.
“This has been a difficult year for Oregon’s youth athletes and, as our COVID-19 numbers have dropped, I have been committed to working with our health experts to reevaluate our protocols for sports,” Brown said in a Wednesday news release. “School sports play an important role in fostering students’ mental, emotional, and physical health. We will proceed with caution, to ensure that teams are following health and safety precautions to protect our athletes, their families, and their communities.”
Previously forbidden under OHA guidelines, outdoor contact sports such as football are permitted to resume activities this week with extensive safety protocols in place. More specifically, counties in OHA’s low-and moderate-risk categories can resume practices and games while following OHA safety guidance.
In extreme and high-risk counties — Lincoln County is high risk — schools now have the option to chose to commence outdoor contact sports with additional new protocols.
“In such counties, sports organizations must offer on-site responsive testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts, contact information for contact tracing, and a waiver identifying health and safety risks and a commitment to isolation and quarantine if exposed to COVID-19,” Wednesday’s release read.
Schools in extreme and high-risk counties that opt against following the new contact sports guidelines will be allowed to provide only practices and games for non-contact athletics.
On Thursday morning, Lincoln County School District Athletic Director Majalise Tolan held a virtual meeting with school athletic directors to review options for going forward. That meeting lasted well into Thursday afternoon, and the News-Times did not receive details of those discussions prior to the press deadline.
According to the OSAA website, Newport, Toledo and Eddyville Charter School have March 5 varsity football games scheduled. Newport is slated to travel to play at Sweet Home. The Boomers are scheduled to host Regis, and Eddyville Charter goes to Prospect Charter if the OSAA site is correct. The OSSA site indicates those games are scheduled for 7 p.m.
The OSAA website also lists Taft as hosting Dayton at 7 p.m. March 12. The football programs from Siletz Valley and Waldport have no scheduled football contests on the OSAA site.
During a Monday meeting of the Oregon School Activities Association’s executive board, it voted to allow boys and girls high school soccer and cross country to proceed with practices starting Feb. 22 and games as early as the first day of March. Also during that Monday meeting, directors elected to proceed with volleyball, also considered a contact sport, to commence on the same dates for schools in all counties not in the extreme-risk category.
In the announcement of the OHA’s new guidance, Brown issued a challenge to those who’ve asked her the last several months to allow the resumption of prep athletics
“It is not lost on me that this decision (Wednesday) will allow high school football to resume, when too many high school classrooms across Oregon remain empty,” Brown said in the release. “To all the parents of student athletes and coaches who have called and emailed me in the last year asking for school sports to resume, I am challenging you now to devote your energy to making sure in-person academics can resume for your kids, too. If our school gyms, fields and weight rooms are to reopen, we owe it to Oregon’s children to make sure our classrooms, libraries, and science labs fully reopen as well.”