Sports competitions remain on hold, as Fairbanks School District operates in high-risk zone

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 7:16 PM AKDT
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On Monday, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District transitioned from the medium-risk to the high-risk zone, ceasing all sporting events and games.

The school district considers the high-risk, or “red zone” as more than 10 new cases over a 14-day average within the borough. Over the last 14 days, (August 19-September 1), the Fairbanks North Star Borough has recorded 152 positive cases of COVID-19, including 22 on Tuesday, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Beyond the average case count, other factors considered when transitioning zones include hospitalizations, testing numbers and community hot spots. The district also works with their Medical Advisory Committee when making these decisions.

“Obviously, the pandemic is completely unpredictable, so we’re just taking a cautious approach,” said Luke Meinert, Assistant Superintendent of the school district. “We’re currently in a high-risk environment as a community. As our numbers lower and as our district continues to meet with our Medical Advisory Committee, if that determination is made to enter an intermediate-risk zone [yellow zone], then sporting events would continue again.”

While sports competition between schools have been paused, teams are still able to gather and practice under stricter protocols placed by the regulating body for high school interscholastic activities for the state, the Alaska School Activities Association.

“In a high-risk environment, the practices really focus on individual skill development and conditioning,” added Meinert. “Students are required to have 10-foot social distancing and there is limitations on shared equipment use. ASAA actually just updated their protocols this morning [Wednesday] to allow for some limited shared equipment use, meaning like a volleyball or a football...They can use the ball as long as they’re sanitizing and cleaning the ball on a regular basis and the guidance they provide is every 14 minutes or sooner.”

If schools are allowed to compete with one another again in the fall, it would certainly complicate schedules. Many sports are weeks into their season, as high schools began competition on August 20.

“We’re not exactly sure what that will look like,” said Meinert of the schedules if schools are able to return to competition. “What we do know is that districts throughout the state have a tremendous amount of flexibility in schedules, which they have never had before. Several districts have already entered in and out of red zones; some districts are playing just inter-district games.

Now that we have this new wrinkle here in Fairbanks, we’ll see how long it takes and we will adjust our schedules accordingly. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of room in the schedule to push things back, so what will happen is, when we are able to start playing games again, is that activities coordinators will work together and work with other districts to reschedule matches, focusing obviously on conference play and making sure that those games happen if we can make them happen.”

Meinert said if teams are able to return to competition, they will continue to follow ASAA guidelines and will make adjustments based changes made by ASAA.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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