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No social distancing on buses, comprehensive athletic plans have me feeling more optimistic about high school fall sports

Athletes like Wayne County’s Macey Blevins can start working out with teammates in limited ways at most schools now.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Maybe for the first time I am starting to feel a little more optimistic about fall high school sports because there seems a much better chance now that there could be students returning to Kentucky school systems.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and Kentucky’s 172 school superintendents along with Kentucky Department of Education leaders were on a webcast together Tuesday to discuss reopening schools.

One issue that I had kept hearing about was how many students would be allowed on a school bus, a huge area of concern for districts that have a large percentage of students who ride buses. One teacher had told me her district was saying buses would be limited to eight students — making it impossible for a return to school.

The DPH had recommended no more than one student to a seat but now that has been updated. The DPH says social distancing doesn’t have to be enforced on school buses if students wear face masks, practice proper hand hygiene and also have temperatures checked.

One of the biggest points of contention for superintendents was the DPH recommendation that school buses implement social-distancing by allowing no more than one student to a seat. The DPH now says social distancing does not have to be enforced on buses if students wear mask, use proper hand hygiene and have temperatures checked.

“In the classroom, we can’t have students being on top of each other because they’re in the classroom for seven-to-eight hours. The bus ride is less time so there is less exposure,” said Emily Messerli, immunization branch manager for DPH.

So that’s a big start even though a lot of other hurdles remain.

I’ve also seen comprehensive plans from Lincoln County, Mercer County, Rockcastle County and Boyle County about the start of athletics and heard about plans several other systems have — no, I can’t find anything for the Danville district which doesn’t surprise me. Seems like Danville schools just continue to be behind in so many ways and several parents of Danville High School athletes have expressed their frustration to me — again — especially since apparently there was no athletics department meeting with coaches until this week to even start putting together plans.

The Lincoln County plan emphasizes that “all activities until July 15 for any sports are completely voluntary” for athletes and coaches.

Lincoln and other school systems are following Kentucky High School Athletic Association guidelines set through July 12 and waiting for updates after that.

Here are some of the safety protocols for Lincoln High School and Middle School athletes and coaches:

— Coaches must wear facial coverings at all times that they are in the presence of athletes. Coaches must perform temperature and symptom checks before students access the facilities for all practices. Any athlete that fails these checks (with a temperature of 100.4 or higher) must be sent home. These safety checks will be submitted weekly to the athletic director.

— Coaches are responsible for educating and supervising the cleaning of equipment by athletes.

— Any athlete or coach that is sick, for any reason, must remain home and it is incumbent upon coaches to express to athletes that missing these voluntary workouts due to sickness will not be held against the athlete when the season starts.

— Athletes may only arrive at the facility by transport from a family member, legal guardian, or by self-transport. No ride sharing by athletes. Any athletes caught ride sharing will be sent home from the facilities immediately.

— Athletes must bring their own hydration for practices. This is a state rule meant to limitthe sharing of items by athletes while on campus.

— Athletes must arrive on campus dressed for practice. Locker rooms and bathrooms may not be used for changing attire.

— Athletic director and coaches will designate specific entry and exit points for each facility and buildings to minimize the contact between coaches and athletes entering and exiting practices.

— The KHSAA eliminated the mandatory dead period that was scheduled for June 25-July 9, however, coaches are to inform athletes that if their parents have already scheduled a family vacation for either of those weeks they are to go with their family on that vacation. Absolutely no athlete will be penalized in any way for not attending practice.

This kind of planning and easing back into athletics makes me feel more optimistic about sports and the decision on bus capacity makes me feel better about school.

Combining the two might make me feel optimistic for the first time in almost three months that we really might see high school sports again in 2020.

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