Gov. Kim Reynolds proclaimed on Wednesday that summer school activities, including baseball and softball, may resume on June 1 with restrictions.
It is part of a phased data-driven reopening for voluntary activities that also includes summer academic programs, Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said.
“As the only state to offer (high school) school interscholastic baseball and softball, Iowa is leading the nation and we are confident our parents, coaches and players will make this a success,” Reynolds said.
“We definitely want to participate here in Oelwein,” said Oelwein Schools Activities Director Steven Lueck, noting he was meeting with counterparts later Thursday to discuss the schedule and next week with administrators and coaches “to discuss exactly what that looks like.”
Practice will tentatively start June 1 and games June 15.
“We have guidelines from the state, things we have to do,” Lueck said. “It’s going to change how we do business compared to the past.”
“I imagine handshaking is going away,” Lueck said. “We’ll try to find something else to do with sportsmanship, we don’t know yet as far as what coaches want, what we want,” noting the new rules describe some social distancing required during practice.
One thing he addressed was busing.
“We can’t have packed buses,” Lueck said. “We’re going to ask parents if possible, if they’re going, to drive their son or daughter to games. If we have to, we’ll take two buses to an away game.”
The Department of Education states these mitigation efforts are required for everyone’s safety:
• Post signage prominently indicating no one should attend or participate in practice if they currently have symptoms or have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days.
• No dugouts may be used (for practice). Players’ items should be lined up against the fence at least six feet apart.
• Parents must remain in their cars or drop off and pick up players after practice.
• Players should use their own gloves, helmets, and bats as much as possible.
“We’re hoping kids have their own gloves so they’re not sharing,” Lueck said. “We’re hoping they have their own bats, obviously a lot of them don’t.”
“There’s no way that all kids could buy their own bat,” Oelwein softball coach Bob Lape told the Daily Register. “Most bats you want to use are $300 plus.”
“At this point in the game, it’s really late but if they have their own helmet (already) I don’t see why they couldn’t wear it, if it’s National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment or NOCSAE approved,” Lape said, noting last summer he was sanitizing all the helmets at North Fayette Valley with bleach for the first time in his over two dozen years coaching softball owing to another health concern.
• Coaches are responsible for ensuring social distancing is maintained between players as much as possible. This means additional spacing between players while playing catch, changing drills so that players remain spaced out, and no congregating of players while waiting to bat.
• Players must bring their own water/beverage to consume during and after practice. No shared drinking fountains, portable hydration stations, or coolers may be used.
• Coaches must sanitize shared equipment before and after each practice.
• Players and coaches should check their temperatures before attending practices.
• Anyone with symptoms of illness is not allowed to practice.
• Coaches should be knowledgeable of their students with pre-existing health conditions and work with school nurses or other health officials to take additional precautions as needed.
• Players should be encouraged to provide their own hand sanitizer.
• Coaches must ban the spitting of sunflower seed shells.
• Coaches are responsible for tracking absences for the purpose of noting potential COVID-19 cases.
• Contact public health if a positive case of COVID-19 is reported.
Some game mitigation efforts differ from practice guidelines:
• Use of dugouts is permitted during games only.
• Schools must limit the use of bleachers, rather encourage fans to bring their own chairs or stand. Fans should practice social distancing between different household units and accept personal responsibility for public health guidelines.
“The nice thing about summer sports is there’s a lot of room,” Lueck said.
As new rules limit use of the bleachers, he said sitting along the baseline in family groups as required has “always been (an) option. Obviously they want to be close to the action. Hopefully they have common sense to stay six feet apart.”
• Schools must also implement any other reasonable measures under the circumstances of each school to ensure social distancing of staff, students, and community members, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the IDPH.
• Fans, like anyone, must not attend if they have symptoms of illness.
• No concessions stands are permitted.
• Again, contact public health if a positive case of COVID-19 is reported.
In-person team organized activities for other sports remain suspended until July 1.
UMMER SCHOOL GUIDANCE ANNOUCNED
Schools may provide summer learning using online and other distance approaches but they may now also offer to choose to provide onsite learning opportunities in accordance with public health precautions as outlined in new state guidance, Lebo said.
Some of the mitigation measures include screening all staff and students upon arrival, teaching and reinforcing washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, distancing students and staff in instruction by limiting group size, increased spacing, limiting mixing between groups and implementing cleaning and disinfecting schedules.
“These guidelines are specific to moments in time as we transition through phases of reopening based on virus activity,” Lebo said.
“This phase introduces guidelines for voluntary activities that involve limited numbers of students through June with expectations of new decision points by July 1. Whether a school chooses to provide in-person learning opportunities over the summer is a local decision that should be made based on the needs of their communities and in consultation with local public health officials.”
State officials planned to review the guidance Thursday with school leaders on summer sports, use of facilities and summer learning activities “and will continue to offer support to schools as we work though (this) together.”