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Green Light in the Red Zone: Games back in action for Fairbanks High Schools

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 7:09 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -

Four schools within the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District competed in flag football games on Thursday, signifying the return of high school sports in the area.

On August 31, the school district transitioned to the red, or high-risk zone in relation to the borough’s COVID-19 case numbers, ceasing all sports competitions.

Since the first discussions this summer about approaching the return of sports, the school district has followed Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) guidelines and protocols, the regulating body for high school activities in the state.

Recently, ASAA updated those guidelines in coordinance with health care professionals to allow school districts to compete while still in the red zone, which previously discontinued competition. The changes are based on the development and adherence to mitigation plans, rather than community risk levels.

Over the last 14 days, the borough has seen an average of 15.6 new cases of COVID-19 per day. However, that number is no longer relevant in terms of competition.

“The big decision point for us was that ASAA updated their guidelines and protocols for school districts,” Assistant Superintendent of FNSBSD Luke Meinert said. “Here in Fairbanks, we feel confident with our mitigation plans. We have had over 800 students and coaches participating in activities since June, which I think speaks to the testament of our successful mitigation plans and the adherence to them.”

In flag football action Thursday, West Valley visited North Pole, while Lathrop hosted Hutchison. A multi-school cross country meet is scheduled for Saturday at Chena Lakes, while the Patriots will also compete in volleyball. Also on Saturday, Monroe football faces Eielson, while West Valley will play North Pole as teams jump right back into action.

With the new guidelines, teams are able to practice under “yellow zone” protocols, which include less restrictions on shared equipment and contact.

The way events are held have been changed as well. Under the new guidelines, there will be no spectators for indoor activities, including parents. For outdoor events, there will be limited capacity with masks required for spectators.

Activities Coordinators around the district continue to fill the remainder of their fall schedules. If state championships are held, student-athletes from the district may travel to compete.

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