Fall high school sports officially have a start date for practices and competition in Santa Rosa County.
The Santa Rosa County School Board approved a Sept. 7 start date for practice for county schools with a potential start to competition on Sept. 14. After 10 minutes of questions from board members, the motion passed unanimously.
The motion brings Santa Rosa County schools into alignment with Escambia County schools, which can also begin practice on Sept. 7. Okaloosa County, which neighbors Santa Rosa County to the east, has not yet determined a potential start date.
Gulf Breeze, Navarre, Pace, Milton, Central School and Jay are public high schools from Santa Rosa County that compete in the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Safety measures will follow guidelines from the health department, CDC, FHSAA and Andrews Institute, said Santa Rosa County superintendent Tim Wyrosdick.
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Schools will have flexibility to schedule competition outside of the county and state, said Santa Rosa Director of High Schools Jason Weeks, though he said the district is cautioning schools to avoid overnight trips.
“If you’ve got something on your schedule that is about the same amount of time as it would be to go to a Panama City or the other way, then they could continue that plan to try to salvage as much of their schedule as they can,” Weeks said. “But a game in Jacksonville would be a no right now.”
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Fall high school sports include football, volleyball, cross country, golf, and swimming and diving.
Among the concerns raised by school board members was the proximity of the Sept. 7 practice start date to that of the scheduled school reopening on Monday, Aug. 24.
Vice chairperson Wei Ueberschaer questioned whether the district would be better off pushing back the start of athletics. Wyrosdick justified the date because of its commonality with other districts, as well as the flexibility it will allow programs in scheduling.
The motion is contingent upon schools maintaining in-person attendance, Wyrosdick saud, adding fall sports would be suspended if schools transition to full-time remote learning.
“There are so many moving parts to this and so many school districts handling this differently,” Wyrosdick said. “We want to build as much capacity for our student-athletes as possible.
“If we need to shut it down, then we will shut it down. But we have to start and engage to at least give students that opportunity.”
Regarding attendance, Weeks said facilities will be expected to maintain social distancing protocols and use of face coverings, comparing the measures to those applies to high school graduations from the Class of 2020.
Associated extracurricular activities such as cheerleading were included in the motion, though Weeks said that marching band programs – which have already seen cancellations to fall competitions – will likely be limited in their activities.
Eric J. Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-525-5087.