COVID-19 changes to Western 12-C
Madison County high school sports
Madison County schools are navigating high school sports with COVID-19 regulations.
The Montana High School Association announced a plan for schools to operate sports programs July 27. Some of the general requirements may not apply to Madison County because of its schools’ smaller student population. But a small student population also puts most students and staff in frequent contact with each other. Smaller schools will likely have to close down completely if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19, including sports.
“I want Ed-Burke-normal, not new normal,” Sheridan Athletic Director Ed Burke said. “Whether or not that happens, it’s not my decision. It’s a day to day thing.”
High school sport practices will begin Aug. 14. The MHSA’s first general requirement is to conduct practices in smaller groups. But Madison County’s small student population may already constitute as a small group.
Sanitation and hand washing opportunities will need to be available for players and coaches before, during and after practices and competitions, according to MHSA requirements. Coaches continue to work with superintendents to accommodate cleaning opportunities during games and practices. Ennis Athletic Director Chris Hess said that tables could be set up next to either team’s bench.
All tournaments and out of state competitions were canceled as directed by the MHSA. Social distancing is required during sporting competition and practice when possible. It seems unlikely that players in team sports can remain 6 feet away from each other due to the nature of the games. But huddles, timeouts and other momentary gatherings in a game are encouraged to space out or have been eliminated.
“These things we’re going to have to rehearse,” Hess said.
Players on the bench will have to be socially distanced and wear face coverings. Schools will have to increase some of their sporting equipment, like volleyballs and footballs, so that they can be regularly sanitized throughout practice and games. Students will have to bring their own labeled water bottles. These efforts are to decrease the spread COVID-19 within the school and community. If the virus is detected to be spreading within a school population, it will have to close until it is sanitized, and contact tracing is completed. Madison County’s athletic directors and school boards are meeting between Aug. 10-13 to finalize plans for COVID-19 regulations.
“This is MHSA mandated stuff,” Hess said. “We’re not politically motivated. We’re following the guidelines we have to to operate. We hope everybody is on board because it’s this or nothing.”