For three long months local stadium fences have been wrapped in caution tape, equipment storage sheds padlocked and athletic fields stood silent as Colorado navigated through the coronavirus pandemic.
But that changes Monday, as Colorado High School Activities Association’s moratorium on high school sports expires, paving the way for area districts to open athletic facilities for approved offseason training.
Gov. Jared Polis’ announcement May 25 allowing for summer camps to meet under the amended Safer-at-Home executive order, gave local districts the green light to open for practice earlier than anticipated.
Colorado Springs School District 11 is the largest local district that will take advantage, allowing groups of 10, including coaches, to meet for voluntary sessions starting Monday.
“We are going to take it slow and make sure we are doing things the right way,” D11 athletic director Christopher Noll said. “The thing with a global pandemic is things not only change daily, but can change hourly, so rather than making these big sweeping decisions, we will need to monitor and constantly evolve and evaluate every two weeks or so.”
Noll said while he is excited to have athletes back on the field, the district will be adapting a new philosophy, focusing on safety as the top priority, then the social and emotional well-being of the athletes and students, and finally the physical aspect of training.
“Everybody has got to do what is best for their community and their kids,” Noll said. “Some will open a little faster, some a little slower, but everyone has the same focus of let’s make sure our kids are OK, and focus on their health and well-being.”
Lewis-Palmer District 38 has workouts scheduled for Monday according to Twitter. Woodland Park RE-2 will also open its facilities to begin training “in a restrictive environment” after working closely with Teller County Health, according to athletic director Joe Roskam. Colorado Springs Christian hopes to be back on the field by Tuesday, pending the finalization of safety protocols.
“Our coaches are just starting to prepare for in-person voluntary practices using all the guidelines given by the state,” said CSCS athletic director Jason Rollins via email. “Football is the sport that will get going first since much of their training will revolve around fitness and weightlifting which is easier to do with social distancing.”
CSCS girls’ volleyball coach Lori Currier said her team will hold off until the end of the month to see if guidelines will allow for a more conducive practice situation.
“When I saw the guidelines said you can only control your own ball, that makes it difficult for volleyball players, so we will just wait and see where we are toward the end of June,” Currier said, adding that she hopes to plan conditioning sessions and Zoom meetings with new players in the coming weeks.
Sierra athletic director Rob Bentley said via email that Harrison District 2 is aiming for a June 8 reopening as the district finalizes its reentry protocol, which will be sent to parents next week.
According to a release published to the Widefield School District 3 website on Thursday, the district has a plan in place to return to athletics July 6, but thanks to recent updates from Polis’ office, the district could move its reopening date to June 15.
"We are now tentatively scheduled to reopen for athletics on June 8th," Fountain-Fort Carson athletic director Jared Felice said Monday. "We do have a conference call with El Paso County Health tomorrow, so barring anything new from them, we are planned for reopening next Monday."
Felice said the district will mandate in-person health and sanitizing training for all head coaches, virtual health and sanitizing training for all assistant coaches and each coach will be required to submit a sport-specific health and sanitizing plans to Felice.
One of the biggest challenges for districts is drafting safety protocols and training coaches on the new procedures.
Noll spearheaded drafting the protocols for D11’s return to sports, pulling from the National Federation of State High School Associations, Aspen Institute, USA Wrestling, USA Volleyball and state guidelines.
Noll said the document will be available to the public once it is finalized in the coming days. He added that students and parents will need to review and sign a district waiver before joining a practice.
While coaches did not have a hand in drafting the protocols, Noll did say coaches will have flexibility in terms of planning their adjusted workouts.
“Our weight rooms are not open, so coaches will need to get creative with their workouts,” Noll said.
Under the D-11 guidelines, and recommended by the NFHS, athletes are not permitted to share equipment in the first phase of reopening, which will force coaches to think outside the box to organize practices, especially for sports such as volleyball and football, to limit cross contamination of equipment.
Colorado Springs school district plans for reopening
Academy District 20: July 1
Colorado Springs School District 11: Monday
Fountain District 8: June 8
Harrison District 2: June 8
Lewis-Palmer District 38: Monday
Manitou Springs District 14: No return date. Athletic practices listed as “virtual contact only,” through the end of June.
Widefield School District 3: July 6 (could move to June 15)
Woodland Park RE-2: Monday
Editor’s note: Cheyenne Mountain District 12, Ellicott District 22, Falcon District 49 and Peyton District 23 have not posted reopening plans to their district website, and did not respond to The Gazette’s email regarding athletic updates.