Schools may begin limited workouts June 8 with cleaning, monitoring
Jones County athletes will be allowed back on campus beginning June 8 for voluntary summer weight training and conditioning under strict guidelines released last week by the Georgia High School Association.
“We’re still trying to get some clarification on what we can do, but we’re planning to open up on June 8 for those who want to come,” Jones County athletic director Barry Veal said. “Hopefully we can get some more information from the GHSA this week so we can move ahead.”
Veal said he, Jones County school superintendent Charles Gibson, JCHS principal Lance Rackley and possibly others were to meet Tuesday to hash out district level guidelines for the June workouts.
Schools closed March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the GHSA temporarily stopping spring sports and then cancelling them for the rest of the season when it became clear schools would not reopen to complete the spring semester.
Since then, campuses have been closed to athletes and coaches have been forbidden from working directly with athletes, though they have been able to stay connected by phone or online and recommend ways for athletes to remain in shape.
As some of the social distancing restrictions imposed by the state have been relaxed in recent weeks and businesses have started to ramp up, GHSA officials have been discussing ways to resume high school sports.
The GHSA board of trustees held a virtual meeting last Thursday, with executive director Robin Hines asking that they approve limited voluntary conditioning workouts to begin on June 1.
Members from some of the state’s larger school systems, including Henry County Schools director of athletics Curt Miller, said it would take longer for their systems to prepare for the reopening and requested a delay to June 8, which was granted. Jones County competes in the same region with seven Henry County schools.
The June 8 reopening comes with significant restrictions.
Activities will be limited to general conditioning, and no bats, balls or other sport specific equipment may be used. There must be no more than 20 people, athletes and coaches, in a group that is working together. Social distancing should be maintained as much as possible, facemasks are recommended for use in weight rooms, and thorough cleaning of weights and other workout gear should take place after each use. Those participating should be screened to be sure they are not ill and have not been in contact with those who have COVID-19.
No competition is allowed between schools, and camps are still prohibited.
“We had been hearing some rumors about requirements to open back up, so we’ve been planning for how we will resume activities and handle the extra cleaning and limited numbers in groups for a while,” Veal said. “We will adjust our plans to be sure we comply with all the requirements by the GHSA.”
Normally, schools are allowed to hold voluntary summer workouts that include batting practice for softball or baseball, practicing plays and formations without pads in football, camps involving other teams, non-contact scrimmages and games with other schools.
GHSA officials indicated they will continue to monitor the situation and hope they can ease restrictions later in the summer, perhaps in early July, to allow for more sport-specific training.
The GHSA normally allows mandatory preseason practice to begin the final week of July for football and for on Aug. 1 for all other fall sports. Those dates have not been changed so far, but GHSA officials say they will continue to monitor the situation closely and make changes as conditions warrant and any restrictions imposed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp mandate.
Veal said he hopes everything goes well with the reopening of conditioning and that the GHSA will be able to allow the schools to do more soon.
“We still need to have tryouts for softball, volleyball and cheerleading. Hopefully some of these restrictions can be eased enough to do that before much longer.
“But for now, we’ll follow the restrictions and do what conditioning we can,” he said. “It is all still voluntary, but from the calls I’ve gotten from parents I believe that most of our athletes will be here.”
Summer conditioning guidelines
The GHSA issued the following restrictions and recommendations for summer conditioning activities to the state’s schools last Friday:
All summer work is voluntary.
Schools/school systems may be more restrictive than the GHSA but not less.
Workouts are conditioning only, no balls or sport specific equipment.
Member schools should prepare an Infectious Disease Prevention Plan prior to staff and athletes returning to conditioning.
It is recommended that staff and athletes are screened prior to each workout.
Signage should be posted on site with the following:
• Do you or have you had a fever in the last week?
• Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?
• Have you been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19?
• Have you traveled to a “hot spot” for COVID-19?
Groups of 20, including coaches, for workouts per sport at any given time at the campus/facility.
Groups should be the same individuals (including coaches) for each session to limit risk of exposure. Student or coaches cannot change groups for the duration of this guidance.
No use of locker rooms or shower facilities. Students should report to the facility dressed to condition and shower at home.
Weight equipment should be cleaned prior to each workout and sanitized between use by each student.
Hand sanitizer should be plentiful and readily available.
Each student should have their own personal water bottle. No use of water fountains or “water cows” is allowed.
Side spots only in weight training, safety bars are preferred.
Social distancing should be adhered to always and masks/face covering are recommended for the weight room.
At least 15 minutes should be scheduled between groups to allow for disinfecting the facility.
There is no competition allowed between schools.
No visitors are allowed at conditioning sessions.