Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Director David Hines said that there is no change to the fall sports timeline after Thursday’s joint news conference with Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Education Kathy Hoffman.
“We’re still following what they say,” Hines said. “We just want to make sure every safeguard there is to be followed. It’s important to follow the guidelines, wear a mask.”
The Arizona reopening date is still Aug. 17 for on-sight learning for students who don’t have anywhere else to go. That doesn’t mean all schools in the district have to be open, but at least one. Not all teachers are required to be in classrooms. There will be a distance learning option for students. The AIA has said that students taking online courses are still permitted to play sports.
Even as fluid as things have been since March, there is always the possibility of the COVID-19 trend reversing course. For now there have been signs for it trending in a direction that is allowing the state to let the school leaders determine when to reopen their classrooms.
The AIA, meanwhile, is sticking to its fall sports plan.
That means Aug. 17 is the first day of official football practices for schools in the state with the first game Sept. 7.
“Best news we’ve received in a long time!” Scottsdale Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said in a text. “Props to the AIA for having a plan and sticking to it.”
School leaders will be making the calls on when schools reopen and how they’ll implement sports. Some districts, mostly on reservations, have canceled fall sports due to the pandemic and virtual learning.
Saguaro, along with the rest of the Scottsdale Unified School District schools, will be back to football camp on Monday after being on summer conditioning pause for more than three weeks because of the coronavirus surge.
SUSD’s education plan will allow families to choose between online and in-person classes.
Chandler coach Rick Garretson said that his school will begin online learning Aug. 3 with on-sight instruction set for Aug. 17.
“I think it’s great,” Garretson said. “Mr. Hines has a plan and he’s on target to make things move in a positive direction.”
Garretson praised the job Chandler Unified School District Superintendent Camille Casteel and district athletic director Marcus Williams have done this summer, creating guidelines that “we’ve been following since June 8th,” Garretson said.
“Once we get the green light from our district, game on,” Garretson added.
Phoenix Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds is happy to see the plan for fall football hasn’t changed.
“My players and coaches are champing at the bit to get started,” Hinds said. “Very exciting and hopeful news. We are moving in the right direction.”
Gilbert Perry Principal Dan Serrano said he has heard from teachers who want to get back into the classroom and some who don’t want to return to the classroom. He doesn’t foresee his school holding back on the AIA’s plan to start fall sports.
Peoria Centennial football coach Richard Taylor said he was “very encouraged,” over the AIA’s announcement Thursday that it is sticking to its plan.
Glendale Cactus football coach Joseph Ortiz said it gives him confidence moving forward this summer with his program.
But he believes there could be an uneven playing field heading into a Sept. 7 season opener, because some school districts have been more reluctant than others in allowing organized team conditioning work on campus this summer.
Meanwhile, at least 15 small schools throughout Arizona, most of those from reservation have cancelled fall sports.
“I just hope we get enough time to get our kids ready,” Ortiz said. “We have been shut down for three weeks now and some schools are working out and even practicing. That’s a leg up on where we’re at right now. But for the kids to have an opportunity to play is the most important thing.”
Chandler Arizona College Prep football coach Myron Blueford said that he is happy the plan is to have a season.
“Definitely makes it easier to prepare for, but I think we need to plan for the unexpected, as well,” Blueford said. “Couldn’t be more excited for my seniors right now. I hope and pray we get through the season.”