While July 1 marks the end to schools statewide being closed to extracurricular activities, it does not mean sports and other activities will take place as they did last July.
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t ended.
Rock County is in Phase 2 of its Public Health Department reopening guidelines and Milton School District is following those guidelines. The school board on June 22 approved Phase 2 reopening of district facilities and gave Superintendent Rich Dahman the authority to modify the plan if recommendations from public health officials change.
So what does Phase 2 look like?
Milton School District facilities are not available for contact sports games or tournaments.
“As much as possible, we want to do individual skills training,” said Milton High School Principal Jeremy Bilhorn. “It’s not going to look like a scrimmage, it’s not going to look like a game. It partly is trying to get kids with coaches, with each other, getting some activities started – it’s going to be a start.”
Marching band will be spread out across the campus, with fewer than 25 students together in one area. Wind instruments will be disallowed at this time, Bilhorn said but those students could practice other skills such as marching. Show choir practices would focus on dancing and disallow singing.
Dahman said other districts in the area have similar plans.
“Everybody’s looking to start up with some of these activities, but practicing social distancing and making sure that we’re doing it as safely as we can,” he said.
A June 19 memo to Dahman outlined some of the guidelines and limitations. The memo was written by Director of Building and Grounds Stephen Schantz and Communications and Safety Coordinator Kari Klebba.
Non-contact practices and skill camps are welcome, as long as those participating can adhere to the CDC and Rock County guidelines. Those using/renting the facilities should strive to maintain social distancing and excellent hygiene practices. Personal protective equipment should be used as recommended by the CDC.
Locker rooms are considered “closed” and are not available for use at this time.
The superintendent will sign off on all facility use and park rentals, including rentals at Schilberg Park.
All rentals of parks and or school buildings are limited to gatherings of 25 or fewer people.
Those renting a facility must sign a form acknowledging that they are using the facility at their own risk. The district has prepared an additional COVID-19 supplement that must be signed.
Bilhorn at the June 22 school board meeting presented Milton School District’s summer activity protocol.
The protocol is for sports and activities such as marching band, show choir camps and FFA.
“We want to have a unified approach,” Bilhorn said.
He emphasized this is for summer (July) only.
Following Rock County Phase 2 guidelines, Bilhorn said indoors, the limit is 10 students, outdoors, the limit is 25. That could change, he said.
“There’s going to be symptom screening, as well,” he said.
Students and adults are being asked to self-screen. At the start of each practice, they will be asked to confirm if they have done self-screening (they do not have a fever (100.4 or higher), cough or sore throat, or shortness of breath) and they have not been in close contact or giving care to someone with COVID-19.
Privacy laws relating to student health do not allow volunteers collecting health information, such as temperature, Bilhorn said.
“Some of the general guidelines include maintain physical distancing,” Dahman said. “We will be asking students and coaches or advisors to be wearing masks if they’re going to be closer than 6 feet.”
WIAA guidance states: “For workouts, practices and competitions to continue, social distancing and other preventive measures such as face covering/masking and frequent sanitizing of hands, implements, and equipment should be considered the ‘new normal.’ This will likely remain in place until a cure, vaccine or very effective treatment is readily available, or ‘herd immunity’ is confidently reached. Summer participation (starting July 1) in workouts/training sessions is voluntary and may not be mandated or used toward team or program selection. All coaching contact rules must be followed.”
In “Points of Emphasis,” WIAA states:
- In the absence of guidelines to the contrary, we recommend that cloth face coverings be worn by students during High and Moderate Risk Levels as outlined below.Exceptions are swimming, distance running or other high intensity aerobic activity. Cloth face coverings may continue to be used during the Low Risk Level when not engaging in vigorous activity, such as sitting on the bench during contests, in the locker room and in the athletic training room.
- “Plastic shields covering the entire face (or attached to a helmet) shall not be allowed during contests. Their use during practices increases the risk of unintended injury to the person wearing the shield or teammates.
- “Coaches, officials and other contest personnel are encouraged to wear cloth face coverings at all times during Risk Levels 1 through 3. (Artificial noisemakers such as an air horn or a timer system with an alarm can be used to signal in place of a traditional whistle.)”
Coaches also are being reminded to acclimate students, who maybe have not been involved in physical activity for months, Bilhorn said.
“We want to bring kids back,” he said, “but we want to do it as safe as we can. That’s not just in regards to the COVID procedures but also making sure that they are healthy.”
Other considerations include hydration (reminding students to bring their own water bottles and not sharing water bottles) and also what to do if someone tests positive for COVID-19.
Any coach or adviser who wishes to have summer contact hours will have to put together a sports-specific or activities-specific plan prior to meeting with students, Bilhorn said.
“WIAA and the DPI will hopefully have more guidance as we go along,” Bilhorn said.
School Board member Rick Mullen said he liked the idea and planning.
“I want to make sure we’re very cautious,” he said. “I’m no public health expert but it’s quite evident that a lot of people think Phase 2 or the next phase means that things are back to normal and that’s not that the case.”
Dahman said, “The better job that we do of this, the sooner we’ll be back to full participation. If we’re cautious and we’re taking steps to making sure we’re doing this in a safe manner, that will move us into Phase 3 more quickly.”
Bilhorn said there can be a lot of pressures put on students and said the July activities are “purely voluntary.”
When asked about the pool, Dahman said it will reopen “as long as we can keep people separated.”
There won’t be any hands-on swimming lessons, he added.
“We are looking at procedures specific to the swimming pool, talking to county officials about that,” Dahman said.