Canby School District’s fields and athletic facilities will reopen next week after being closed since early March, but things will look a little different due to the continuing threat posed by the novel coronavirus.
Canby Athletic Director Ben Winegar said facilities will open on July 6 for sanctioned school use only: No outside groups or community athletics programs will be welcomed at this time. Canby will not be alone; many other schools in Clackamas County will be reopening their fields and gyms next week under the guidance of the Oregon School Activities Organization, or OSAA.
Though the news that any type of athletic activity is resuming after months of lock-down will be well-received by many, the OSAA’s strict guidelines make clear that this will be anything but business as usual.
Like the guidance that has come out from the Oregon Department of Education on the reopening of schools next fall, one of the primary keys to OSAA’s Covid-19 strategy is grouping and contact tracing.
Student-athletes in each sport will be put into “pods,” or groups of 10 or fewer students with one coach. An additional coach may be allowed to oversee multiple pods depending on the activity, but their contact would have to be more distant.
And before anyone gets excited about “pod scrimmages,” that looks very unlikely at this point: OSAA requires “minimal contact” between pods.
The OSAA guidelines offer specific requirements for phases 1 and 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, including guidelines that are specific to each school sport or activity. Clackamas County is currently at phase 1 and will remain there until at least July 10 — probably longer, due to rising case counts in the Portland metro area.
“Clackamas County is currently in Phase 1,” Winegar said in an email to students and parents this week. “Until the Tri-County area moves to Phase 2, we will be following the guidance for Phase 1 when we open facilities for school-only use on July 6.”
Phase 1 guidance means athletes, even within the same pods, will not be allowed to share equipment, including balls, bats and bags. Between each facility’s use, cleaning will be required for all contact surfaces and equipment, and because of this, Canby’s use of indoor facilities will be delayed until they “have the proper supplies on hand for the amount of sanitation between groups that is necessitated by the protocol,” Winegar said.
Staff will also be required to wear masks whenever they could be within six feet of a student. Mask use will be recommended for students where possible — especially if they cannot maintain the minimum six feet of distancing.
A growing movement, which started in Madras but has spread statewide and includes a number of Canby coaches and parents, is calling for a safe, structured reopening of contact sports and competition this fall.
Under the OSAA’s current guidelines, several of Canby’s most popular activities are considered “higher risk” and would not be permitted to do more than individual conditioning and drills under phase 1 or 2, including football, wrestling, cheerleading, dance and music.