High schools seek to begin sports emergence

The St. Joseph School District announced a summer re-entry program for student-athletes and coaches.

The last time a St. Joseph School District student-athlete saw competitive action, the Lafayette boys basketball team was fighting for a spot in the state semifinals.

Since that eerie game played in front of a few dozen fans on March 14, sports teams have been idled as the country pushes through the COVID-19 pandemic. The work to be on the field come this fall is now beginning.

The SJSD announced a summer athletics re-entry plan Wednesday that will introduce coaches and players alike back onto campus and into facilities over the next two-plus months

“We wanted to do it in a safe and measured manner,” said Dr. Robert Sigirst, the SJSD’s director of student services. “We wanted to make sure we had a pretty detailed plan in place. We got input from a variety of sources.

“We feel like by taking a little more time and putting this detailed plan together that we hopefully have anticipated any issues that might come up. We do feel like this is a good first step.”

The district will have two phases of openings — which apply to Central, Lafayette and Benton — in June and July to “help our student-athletes workout and compete in the safest manner possible,” as the official plan states.

Phase one will include only outdoor conditioning from June 15-28. A maximum of 60 athletes will be allowed per session and must be split in three groups of 20. Those groups will split off into weight and strength activities, conditioning and agilities. No balls or sport-specific work will be allowed with reacclimating students to fitness as the priority.

Phase two will begin no earlier than July 6 and must be completed by August 2. During this time, athletes will be allowed access into gyms and weight rooms. A maximum of 15 athletes will be allowed in a single weight room in one-hour shifts, with proper sanitation enforced during each use.

Main gyms will be allowed by a max of 30 athletes for two-hour shifts, while auxiliary gyms are available for the same time by 15 athletes. Football and track will be allowed to have 70 athletes outdoors in two-hour shifts, while soccer, tennis, baseball and softball are granted up to 40 athletes in the alloted time.

“I think it’s a big step for the district,” Central athletics director Dave Lau said. “It gives hope to our student-athletes. August is gonna be here sooner than later. We hope things return to somewhat normal.”

Measures are being taken to ensure the proper preparation is done. That will include daily temperature checks of participants, no water fountain or locker room usage, and physical distancing will be enforced.

“We wanna take all those steps we can to make sure our students our safe but at the same time allow them to start to get back to some level of activities,” Sigrist said.

The SJSD made the decision in coordination with the MEC and Suburban Conferences, though schools will be allowed to continue if others must suspend activities.

But hopefully come fall, athletes will return to the field and court with a sense of normalcy returned.

“At some point we’ve gotta take the first steps to getting back. We hope that nothing happens that would cause any derailment to the plan or cause any steps backward,” Sigrist said. “We hope the steps that have been taken … slowed the spread of the disease to the point where we are able to get back to some normalcy later on.”

Brandon Zenner can be reached at brandon.zenner@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowZenner.