On July 30th I made the decision to suspend athletics based upon the recommendation of Columbus Public Health. Since that time Worthington Schools has worked diligently to try and work through the maze of seemingly conflicting information that guides Ohio athletics during this unprecedented time:
Here is what we know:
- The Director of the Ohio Department of Health authorizes certain activities for contact and non-contact sports. In his order dated August 1, 2020, the Interim Director of Health authorized contact practice to begin for all sports. Intra-team scrimmages and contests are currently limited to non-contact sports, unless the contact sports team complies with Section 10 of the Order. We have heard that Section 10 may be removed from the Order in the near future but that remains to be seen.
- The Ohio High School Athletic Association has issued guidance that supplements the ODH August 1, 2020 Order.
- Franklin County Public Health issued two communications which outline FCPH’s recommendations. The first communication, issued July 29, 2020, discusses that extracurricular activities be discontinued. The second communication, dated August 3, 2020, describes the basis for the July 29 recommendation, distinguishes between “orders” and “recommendations.” In addition, and despite its recommendation, FCPH describes how it will continue working with schools. FCPH provides additional advice” if a school decides to have extracurricular activities, including placing students in cohort groups of 9 or less with a staff member and following OHSAA and state guidelines.
- Columbus Public Health issued recommendations advising districts to discontinue athletics.
Worthington Schools also worked to make certain our insurance carrier was apprised of the various orders and recommendations in an attempt to limit community liability.
We believe it is in the best interest of our athletes and our community to follow public health guidance. Obviously, the challenge is that the guidance has not been consistent. Based upon our review of all orders and recommendations we believe getting our athletes back on the field in a safe and responsible way is in their best interest from an athletic and social emotional perspective.
In order to be responsible, all athletes will be asked to have a signed waiver by their guardian. When fans eventually are able to watch athletics we’ll ask fans to sign waivers as well. Furthermore, coaches will submit to training in order to meet the ODH guidelines. Worthington Schools will allow non-contact sports (as defined by the ODH order) to begin immediately. Contact sports (as defined by the ODH order) will come back in pods. Competition may or may not be possible for our contact sports this year depending upon future ODH orders. Band will begin working with musicians in pods.
I recognize that this process of due diligence has taken longer than we would have liked it to and has impacted all of our athletes but I’m especially sorry to our golfers who missed scheduled competitions. We’re in a time where we’re dealing with things that haven’t been dealt with in our lifetime. I’m certain that there will be many more challenges as seasons progress and I don’t expect much will be as it normally has been in the past. Please bear with us as we seek to provide the balance of safety and opportunity.
Individual coaches and directors will follow-up after this communication with specific communication regarding their activity and schedules. There is an OCC middle school meeting next week and we’ll evaluate a safe and responsible middle school sports programs after discussing this at a conference level. More middle school information will come from schools in the next few weeks.
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent