Tuesday, 14 July 2020 16:54

NCHSAA responds to Gov. Cooper's 'Plan B' initiative, working on timeline to return athletics

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CHAPEL HILL — High school sports fans, coaches and players got a little closer to finding out the fate of the 2020-2021 athletic school year on Tuesday.

In an online press conference, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina’s public school system will see students return to the classroom, in some capacity, in August. 

The roughly 1.5 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade statewide will use the “Plan B” method, which incorporates a mixture of in-person and remote learning for students. Richmond County Schools’ proposed calendar would see students return to school starting Aug. 17.

Cooper also said it will be up to school districts to decide if they want to pursue “Plan C” instead, which is remote learning only. RCS is meeting Thursday to discuss which option it will follow, but neighboring Scotland County Schools has elected for the remote learning option.

And since students could be on campus and in the classroom in the next month, that means high school athletics could possibly make a much-anticipated return, too. 

Shortly after Gov. Cooper’s announcement, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and commissioner Que Tucker responded with the following statement:

“As was just shared by Gov. Cooper, this decision on the starting of school for the 2020-2021 school year now puts us in a better position to make informed decisions concerning if, when, and how to resume athletic competition at NCHSAA member schools.

“We will continue discussing the numerous options and scenarios that have been developed and recommended, identifying the most appropriate scenarios. The NCHSAA staff will work with the Board of Directors, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and other stakeholder groups to solidify the details of the best plan for the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and the communities the Association represents.”

Interscholastic athletics were paused in North Carolina on March 13, as spring and summer sports were indefinitely suspended by the NCHSAA following the initial pandemic breakout. 

Tucker and the Board of Directors opened play back up on June 15, announcing that school districts across the state were the final decision makers in terms of if and when teams could resume under certain guidelines.

RCS officials have not allowed athletic programs to resume summer practices, putting to rest the possibility by indefinitely suspending the idea on July 2.

The local timeline will also be reliant on the timeline and procedures put into place by the NCHSAA. When Tucker announced that teams could begin practicing in mid June, the NCHSAA noted that certain guidelines and social distancing measures were to be followed.

Those guidelines can be found here. 

“High Risk” fall sports, meaning there is more physical contact involved and a higher likelihood the virus could be spread, include football, soccer and volleyball.

“We know everyone is interested in start dates and protocols,” Tucker’s statement read. “The NCHSAA will provide further updates when they become available after Board discussion and action.”

Richmond head football coach Bryan Till, who will be entering his fourth season as the Raiders’ coach this fall, remains optimistic that sports, in some capacity, will return in the coming weeks.

“I think there’s a good likelihood sports will be played this fall, but there’s a lot to be determined about which sports will work,” Till said. “I’m sure the Association will do a lot of evaluation, and will do its best to have football, soccer and volleyball during the same time.

“We could see them cut the season down, condense schedules or and move seasons around,” he added. “I think we’ll find out a lot in the next week and a half, especially since the Association has been working on (contingency) plans all summer.” 

“Lower Risk” fall sports, according to the NCHSAA, are cross country, golf and tennis. 

“I hope that NCHSAA will reach out to coaches to get an adequate voice,” Till closed. “Our voice is important for sports and we know what’s best for the kids since we’ve been in contact with them so often.” 

This is a developing story.

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 July 2020 17:03

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_