With less than two weeks until high school football practice begins in Wisconsin, there is no set plan by the WIAA to alter fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Oregon School District is left in a holding pattern. The Madison, Middleton and Sun Prairie school districts have announced they will start the school year with virtual learning.
Currently, the WIAA is currently planning on having fall sports begin and continue as scheduled with COVID-19 safety guidelines. However, there has been a proposal crafted by southwest Wisconsin administrators to move the fall sports season back to spring 2021.
WIAA executive staff members are looking to add a meeting by the end of July to consider flipping the fall sports season to the spring and moving back the spring season into the summer.
“We feel that the ‘Southwest Plan’ has some merit,” Oregon athletic director Mike Carr wrote in an email to the Observer. “With our current situation, it may give everyone around the state some sort of fall sports season and state tournaments by moving sports seasons around in the 2020-21 school year.”
Fall sports would begin in March and wrap up in late May, and spring sports would begin at the end of May and extend into July, according to a copy of the letter from the southwest Wisconsin schools administrators.
The school year finishes at the end of June, so continuing into July would likely require a waiver or approval by schools.
If fall sports were moved to the spring, the winter sports season would be the first to start, either on schedule or pushed back to January 2021. The proposal could mean shortened seasons.
“It will require some out-of-the box thinking, but we work well together, so we are confident that we could pull it together if called to do so,” Carr said. “We will do anything we can to give students a safe experience.”
Dane County is still in Phase 2 of its reopening plan, which limits outdoor gatherings to 25 or less and indoor gatherings to 10 or less. Further complicating Oregon’s situation is the fact that the Badger Conference is spread across seven counties.
Football, soccer and volleyball are all deemed high- or medium-risk sports and are barred from hosting competitions, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Carr said the Badger Conference is using guidance from Public Health Madison and Dane County, the state Department of Public Instruction and the WIAA.
“With the COVID-19 situation being so fluid, it does create some anxiety of what the fall will look like for our students, coaches and community,” Carr said. “With that guidance, we are planning to safely hold athletic practices, competitions and events as allowable.”
Mental health is another area of focus for local school districts. A study conducted by Tim McGuine – a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin – in conjunction with the WIAA, found 33% of student-athletes are displaying symptoms of depression and 40% haven’t been doing any activity since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March.
The Badger Conference athletic directors will meet virtually next week.