CASA GRANDE — As cases of COVID-19 increase with Arizona becoming a hotspot, questions about how schools plan to reopen in the fall are at the forefront.
Along with these questions, the Arizona Interscholastic Association is trying to figure out what the upcoming fall season should look like.
This week, the AIA announced it will send out surveys to school principals in July to gauge school’s plans for reopening for students and the reinstatement of athletics.
“We want to know what we are looking at,” said David Hines, executive director for the AIA. “If three-quarters of the state say we are not going to participate or we are not going to come back, then that affects the viability of what we are doing.
“If a few or a handful of schools say we are not going to compete, then that’s their choice. We certainly respect that decision. But we have to know what to do if we continue to schedule.”
According to a press release from the AIA, the first survey regarding football and fall soccer will be sent in early July with a due date of July 10. A second survey will be sent out two weeks later with a due date of July 24 for all other fall sports.
After the surveys are collected, the AIA’s crisis management committee, composed of AIA staff, executive board members and representatives from all conferences, will meet and analyze the responses in order to plan for the fall sports season.
“A lot of it is trying to get as much early information (as possible) before decisions start getting made,” Hines said.
The first week of regular season football is set to begin Aug. 21 with official practices beginning about July 31.
Last month, the AIA issued a set of recommended guidelines for schools as they look to reopen and welcome back athletes back to campus. A majority of schools began summer workouts at the beginning of June, with Casa Grande high schools beginning this week.
CG Union coach Jake Barro told PinalCentral last week that he feels it would be wise for the AIA to move back the season two weeks and start football in September, pushing all winter and spring sports back two weeks. However, Poston Butte coach Dain Thompson is against the idea and worries about a second wave of COVID-19 possibly hitting in the fall and suspending the season.
“We don’t know (what will happen), but all of that has been discussed,” Hines said.
In early March when the pandemic first started to spread, the AIA followed the lead of Gov. Doug Ducey and state school superintendent Kathy Hoffman after both decided to close schools until March 31. That closure was later extended to early April before deciding to finally close all schools for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.
As a result, the AIA followed suit by postponing all spring sports before later canceling. It’s something Hines doesn’t want to repeat.
“We have to be concerned about the kids, what is the best course of action by doing things and trying to save every opportunity, even if that means a reduced number of games per season,” he said. “We already lost a spring, we don’t want them to lose a second spring. We don’t want to have anybody lose any opportunities. If we have to modify the length of the seasons, that could be a possible discussion.”