Game on? High school activities association director says yes — for now.

The Idaho High School Activities Association plans to let sports happen this fall, as long as state leaders don’t close public schools like they did last spring.

“It would probably take something that drastic (to call off fall sports),” IHSAA Executive Director Ty Jones told Idaho Education News Tuesday.

Ty Jones

In May, the State Board of Education effectively closed the state’s public schools in an effort to follow Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Rebounds Plan. That decision heavily influenced the 15-member IHSAA board’s decision to nix spring sports.

Jones would not rule out the possibility of the board taking similar action this fall. But if a decision to call off sports hangs largely on the state’s school reopening plans, students across Idaho will likely be able to suit up — at least to some degree.

A top state health official warned decision makers that sports could complicate efforts to reopen schools.

But at the heels of a record number of new cases of COVID-19, Little and his State Board of Education last week pushed for schools to reopen, unveiling a set of guidelines for students.

The IHSAA is taking a similar approach, with hopes to get its own sports-specific safety guidelines out to schools in the coming weeks, Jones said. And like the State Board’s emphasis on letting schools shape their own reopening plans for the classroom, the IHSAA aims to grant similar leeway when it comes to sports and other activities.

“It’s going to be different district by district,” Jones said.

Where a student lives could dictate if and when he or she gets to participate. Jones pointed to Rexburg’s Madison School District, where confirmed cases of COVID-19 are at 55, and Ada County, where they exceed 4,300.

These realities may allow some schools to hold games as normal, while forcing others to limit crowds, travel, opponents — and possibly their entire seasons, Jones acknowledged.

And that makes state tournaments an even more unforeseeable reality.

It’s “not ideal,” said Jones, “but we’re doing what we can to make it so they can participate.”

Student-athletes are crossing their fingers.

Highland High School’s Easton Durham called the abrupt end to last spring’s baseball season “devastating.”

The high school senior-to-be is now keeping a close eye on Aug. 28, when high school football fields across Idaho are scheduled to light up for the first time.

“I really hope it happens,” said Durham. “I’m just ready for things to get back to normal.”

Highland High School’s Easton Durham is looking forward to his senior year of football — if isn’t cut short the way baseball was last spring.
Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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