Saturday September 26th, 2020 4:25AM

GHSA board tabs June 8 for athletes' return; Hall County, GHS 'ready to go'

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

THOMASTON — The Georgia High School Association will begin allowing workouts and training with restrictions by its member schools in an effort to begin preparation for a possible return to sporting events in the fall.

The organization made its recommendation Thursday during its board of trustees meeting. The original date suggested by GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines was June 1, but the BOT decided that the date was too soon. The board agreed to push it out a week to June 8 which will allow the state’s more than 400 schools more time to prepare before they bring back the student-athletes to begin conditioning.

"We thought June 1 from the get-go was the date we wanted," said Hines in response to the board. "We were going to look at Gov. Brian Kemp's guidance, what the medical professionals were telling us and that's what we did. If we want to go to June 8, then I will change the date to June 8 and put it out there."

"It's been a lot of work, and we've been working on this for quite some time now." 

June 8 does give the state's coaches and athletes some light at the end of the tunnel. It also shows the GHSA is working toward what they hope is a start to the fall season at their long-standing traditional dates.

Currently, July 27 is slated to be the first official start date for any Georgia schools for the 2020-21 academic year. The GHSA suspended all activities in March in its response to try and help fight the COVID-19 virus and schools around the state have been in limbo since as to when they could begin preparations for the upcoming school year.

Executive board member and Forsyth County Director of Athletics Nathan Turner said he appreciates the board of trustees and agrees with the decision. 

"Everyone wants the best for the students, but we need to make sure we do everything right within the guidelines and with the guidance of the GHSA," Turner said. 

The GHSA’s announcement could be in coordination with the governor’s office, which is expected to release updated guidelines as the state continues to open up more businesses. Gov. Brian Kemp updated those guidelines on Thursday.

Here are the GHSA guidelines for returning to conditioning on June 8, 2020:

-- All summer work is voluntary
-- Schools/School systems may be more restrictive than the GHSA but not less
-- Workouts are conditioning only, no balls or sport-specific equipment
-- Member schools should prepare and infectious disease prevention plan prior to staff and athletes returning to conditioning.
-- It is recommended that staff and athletes are screened prior to each workout 
-- Signage should be posted on-site with the following:

  • Do you or have you had a fever in the last week?
  • Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?
  • Have you been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19?
  • Have you traveled to a hot spot for COVID-19?

-- Groups of 20, including coaches, for workouts per sport at any given time at campus or facility.
-- Groups should be the same individuals, including coaches, for each session to limit risk of exposure. Students or coaches CANNOT change groups for the duration of this guidance.
-- No use of locker rooms or shower facilities. Students should report to the facility dressed to condition and shower at home.
-- Weight equipment should be cleaned prior to each workout and sanitized between use by each student.
-- Hand sanitizer should be plentiful and readily available.
-- Each student should have their own personal water bottle. No use of water fountains or "water cows" is allowed.
-- Side spots only in the weight training, safety bars are preferred.
-- Social distancing should be adhered to always and masks/face covering are recommended for the weight room.
-- At least 15 minutes should be scheduled between groups to allow for disinfecting the facility.
-- There is no competition allowed between schools.
-- No visitors are allowed at conditioning sessions.

One of the key provisions is that systems can be MORE RESTRICTIVE but not less than what the GHSA has stated. Gainesville Athletic Director Adam Lindsey said they have been prepared but will have a few more restrictions at the outset.

"We were ready for the June 1 date so we're ready to go," Lindsey said. "But we have a three-phase plan that for now is a little more restrictve than what the GHSA has. Phase 1 for us will be a coach and 9 players with all the activities outside. We're not sure how long we will be in this phase but we're going to monitor the kids for at least a week, maybe more, and then take a look at things.

"We're still working on Phase 2, which would be moving things inside. Phase 3 is us being back to normal by July 6, which is after the Dead Week. The phases we have in place are designed to get our kids back into shape and to be ready for July 6."

Stan Lewis, Director of Community Relations and Athletics for Hall County, said they will be meeting next week to finalize plans.

"It is our intent to begin on June 8 but right now I don't know if we'll be more restrictive than what has been put out there," Lewis said. "We're getting with all the high school and middle school ADs to look at the guidelines and discuss the restrictions put in place. I feel confident that we'll be having some kind of activity on June 8."

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GHSA board says athletes can return on June 8 with restrictions; GHS 'ready to go'
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