Facility access still restricted for prep athletes

Julie Dieker takes on a defender in a McNary soccer game last fall.

Last month, the OSAA, in conjunction with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), released guidance to all member schools on a summer reopening plan that could potentially take place in some areas of the state within the next week. 

However, Salem-Keizer schools likely won’t begin that process until July.

“It’s still such a fluid situation. We’re hoping to being able to open facilities back up by July. But it’s tentative at this point,” said Larry Ramirez, the director of high school education of Salem-Keizer Public Schools.

Back in April, Gov. Kate Brown had ordered school facilities to close down until June 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, OSAA received clarification from the Oregon Department of Education that the date was set to align with districts that are the latest to finish the school year and that districts can reopen their facilities the day after their school year ends.

“We obviously don’t want to have a large opening. We just want to give the kids a chance to get re-acclimated,” said OSAA executive director Peter Weber.

The last official day of school in the Salem-Keizer School District is June 10, meaning that facilities could hypothetically reopen on June 11. But according to McNary athletic director Scott Gragg, the district won’t be reopening facilities until after June 30.

“We will be guided by how our district reopens up. That is how we will be able to move forward with athletics,” Gragg said.

When Salem-Keizer student-athletes are able to return to their school facilities, they will likely have to do so with substantial restrictions.

Phase one of the OSAA reopening process states that no more than 25 people will be allowed at a gathering and that team workouts should be conducted in pods of 5-10 people — all while maintaining social distancing guidelines of staying six feet apart. Weight room equipment should be cleaned thoroughly after use.

Each OSAA sport was separated into three different categories, which signified the individual sport’s infection risk.

Cross country, track & field, swimming, golf and tennis were considered low-risk activities.

The moderate risk activities were volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball and basketball, while the high-risk activities were football, wrestling, cheer and dance/drill.

Outside of conditioning, there is not a lot of leeway with each sport in phase one as sharing personal equipment is discouraged. In some of the team sports, players are allowed to work on individual ball-handling skills in volleyball, basketball, and tee-work is allowed for baseball or softball players, but players should not share or come in contact with one single ball.

Personal contact is not allowed in any of the sports and coaches and athletes are “strongly encouraged” to wear masks.

“These guidelines are not requirements, but it is important for athletic directors to put thought and plan into what they chose to do,” Weber said. 

OSAA is planning on sharing additional guidance later this month.

“When we feel like it’s safe for kids to re-engage, then we’re going to do that. We know people are chomping at the bit,” Ramirez said.