Jasper releases return-to-play sports plan


JASPER — Jasper is making sure student-athletes can safely return to play, and a spreadsheet was posted to Jasperathletics.com after a phased plan to return was approved Monday by the Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools School Board.

The first phase is set for July 6-19, followed by the second phase spanning July 20-Aug. 14. The second phase will be split between two periods — July 20-Aug. 2 and Aug. 3-14. The third phase begins on Aug. 15, when other fall sports join girls golf in commencing.

As fall sports are set to commence, some guidelines remain universal throughout the three phases. Social distancing is encouraged in all phases. It is allowed and recommended that people wear face masks and coverings. Sharing of some equipment such as clothing, shoes, towels and water bottles is prohibited.

Anybody with COVID-19 symptoms will be referred to their primary care provider and forbidden to participate. Anybody who is sick will be asked to stay home.

“This plan’s been worked on since we shut school down back in March,” Jasper athletic director Brian Lewis told The Herald on Tuesday. “It’s been an ongoing deal where we’ve gathered information from various organizations and various releases, and tried to figure out what would best work for us.”

Lewis believes the reopening plans other schools issue will be consistent across the state. He cited the Indiana High School Athletic Association, the governor’s office and the health department as some guidelines in setting this plan.

The Jasper athletic director said coaches have been told from the beginning to be patient. Things have been changing on a daily and an hourly basis, but Lewis thought it was time to get guidelines in place as July 6 inches closer, and added these are guidelines Jasper feels comfortable about.

“I think we were very diligent in what we put out there, and we didn’t put anything out there that we didn’t feel like we could do,” he said. “It’s important that we give our kids a safe and healthy environment to come back to, and at the same time, we don’t want to go out and say we’re going to do things that we can’t do. So, we were careful with what we put out there, and it’s all things that we believe our coaching staff, our maintenance staff, our administration and our kids can do successfully and give us a chance of playing sports for a long time.”

Only essential personnel will be allowed to attend gatherings and events prior to Aug. 15. Lewis said participants, coaching staff, training staff, officials and administration count as essential personnel.

Parents, fans and media will be prohibited at non-girls golf events. Girls golf practice begins July 31, and Jasper girls golf opens its season Aug. 3 at the Bloomington High School South Invitational. Spectators and media will be allowed at girls golf events with the expectation of following social distancing guidelines. Lewis added Jasper changed its football scrimmage against Heritage Hills from Aug. 14 to Aug. 15 to allow people to attend.

He noted the biggest concern is there will be another spike of the virus that would lead to another shutdown. Lewis doesn’t think there will be life without COVID-19 anytime soon, but added people will have to figure out a way to live with it. Therefore, he believes it is important Jasper protects its athletes, fans, faculty, staff and community as best as it can.

“I think it’s paramount that we get back to athletics, especially in this community — they’ve always been very important,” Lewis said. “And we need to get our kids back with our coaches. These are staff members that have a vested interest in our students and our community, and we’ve got to get them back together and working out together for that personal relationship; and I think the day that we open and we have those first contests will be a relief, a special day, but again, this isn’t over.

“And just because we get back into contests doesn’t mean that we can forget about everything,” he continued. “We’ve still got to be very diligent in what we do, but I’m extremely excited to get back to athletics. And finally, we’re in a time that I think we’re pretty confident looking forward that we’re going to see fall sports and continue throughout the year; and we’ve got to be careful to make sure we continue throughout the season and throughout the school year. We don’t want to play for two months and then get shut down again.”

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