During a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 19, the Lodi School Board agreed to start two high school sports in the traditional fall setting.
Cross country at the middle and high school levels were both unanimously approved for competition in fall, as was girls tennis for both singles and doubles. Both sports were dubbed as being “low risk” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Outside is different than inside as far as risk,” Lodi School board Vice President Angela Lanthrop said. “If we could get these activities to kids safely, we would.”
The WIAA issued a fall-to-spring option for all schools recently, which will condense the winter and traditional spring seasons, as well as the fall-to-spring season. The schedule will have minimal overlap from winter to the new spring season, but more significant overlap from the new spring season into the traditional spring sports season.
“We are doing the best we can for who we can,” Board Member Steven Ricks said. “No decision we make will make everybody happy. We have to do what we can in a safe way.” He added that making these kinds of decisions now will be more difficult than in three months from now.
The board then decided to move girls swimming, boys soccer, volleyball, football and cheer to the new fall-to-spring option introduced by the WIAA.
“I have a hard time seeing football as safe (for fall) with all the kids and coaches on the sideline,” School Board Member Barb Beyer said.
Also, Lake Mills, Lakeside Lutheran, Watertown Luther Prep and Cambridge have all moved their boys soccer season to spring.
Football and soccer are high-contact sports and seen as high-risk for a fall season.
To address some other co-curriculars, high school principal Joe Jelinek added that the fall musical is being moved to the spring, and there’s a possibility that the spring play could be made into a radio presentation.
The board had approved three sports to begin practice at its monthly meeting on Aug. 10 — cross country, tennis and swimming. Because swimming is indoors, the board thought it might be best to move it to the spring.
The WIAA has now created a four-season athletic schedule. For all sports being played in the fall, the cross country season has a tentative end date during the week of Oct. 26, while tennis is tentatively scheduled to end the week of Oct. 19.
The Capitol Conference, which Lodi is a member of, decided by an 8-3 vote to move all fall sports to the spring option, but allowed each school to have its own decision on when to play.
There is one caveat to all sports during the traditional fall season. If a team completes more than 50% of its scheduled season and then has to shut down for whatever reason, the WIAA considers that to be a full season, and the team can no longer switch to the modified fall-to-spring option. If a team completes less than 50% of the season, it can make the switch to the spring option.
It was discussed how the high school might handle the two approved sports for fall. The suggestion of having no spectators for either sport was brought up. Events would also be limited to single opponents and single-day competitions. It was suggested that one coach from each sport be designated to handle all COVID-19 procedures and concerns.
For cross country, it was suggested that all runners wear face coverings. Staggered start times, course modifications to limit congestion and alternative finish lines were also presented as options.
For practices, each runner should bring their own water, with failure to do so possibly resulting in that runner sitting out of practice. At practice, student-athletes would work out in a pod of the same 5-10 students each time.
For tennis, it was suggested that each visiting team bring their own cartons of balls for competitions, and each team would use their own when serving. Also, the possibility of using every other court to maximize distancing was also presented.
The administration will work on direct guidelines for each sport and present them to the coaches.
Lanthrop brought up the question of how things would be handled if there is a positive COVID-19 test within athletes or coaches during any event.
Breunig said that the guidance of the health departments of the two counties differ on the topic. He said that Dane County would tell the district to quarantine everybody associated with the event, while Columbia County would conduct contact tracing and determine who should quarantine, with the district’s help.
Breunig also heard of an added issue among teenagers, in that they are not being entirely truthful in the tracing aspect because they don’t want to be the one that triggers a stopping point with a given sports season.
A lot of questions remain for administration to finalize. Questions of allowing spectators or multi-team events, and where to travel to and who to host for events are some that will need to be answered by the high school.
“There’s a large decision to be made, followed by several small decisions,” High School Associate Principal Jason Marshall said.
The district may also need more buses for away events, as the suggested limit of people per bus is 24.