After getting the green light from the PIAA to start the fall sports season last week, the District 10 Committee voted unanimously to allow Titusville, Maplewood and the remainder of the schools in the district to plan for a normal start to the season during Wednesday’s virtual ZOOM meeting.
In their decision, District 10 chose to follow the “Regular Start” option laid out by the PIAA last week. This was chosen over the “Alternate Start” and “Hybrid Start.”
Under the Regular Start, heat acclimatization for football will begin on Monday, Aug. 10 while the first practice is set for Monday, Aug. 17 and the first games will be played on Friday, Aug. 28. Golf matches are permitted to begin on Tuesday, Aug. 20, with Girls Tennis beginning play on Monday, Aug. 24 and the remainder of fall sports having their first contests on Friday, Sept. 4.
“The membership of the District 10 Committee, comprised almost entirely of educators, fully appreciates the difficult matters facing schools relating to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the District 10 Committee said in an open letter released shortly after Wednesday’s meeting. “The concern of all is the safe return to school and if possible, a safe return of all school activities. Once again, how this is accomplished is a local school district decision.”
Although the District approved this plan, all schools are not required to start their seasons on this timeframe and there is no penalty for missed games. As long as schools meet the required timelines, similar to the “Alternate Start,” they can proceed in a delayed manner. Heat acclimatization for football would be permitted no earlier than Monday, Aug. 10, while the first practice would not be allowed prior to Monday, Aug. 17, and the first games would be played on Friday, Sept. 11. The remainder of fall sports teams would see the first day of games be Monday, Sept. 14. In addition, each sport would have to exercise a full preseason before games would be permitted to start. Golf has a three-day minimum, while tennis’ minimum is one week and the remainder of sports is three weeks.
When considering how the district would proceed, surveys were sent out to each school district to get their input in terms of when each school would be prepared to start the season. Out of the 45-plus inquiries, only 29 superintendents responded. District 10 Secretary Bill Flanagan called the lack of responses “disappointing.”
Titusville Area School District Superintendent Stephanie Keebler and PENNCREST School District Superintendent Timothy Glasspool were among the those who indicated they are “prepared to play regular season games as scheduled.” Grove City (Sept. 14) and Sharpsville (Sept. 7) responded that they will be later in the following weeks. Fairview left the possibility that the Tigers may not play any fall sports at all.
As stated in the open letter to District 10 School Officials and Board Members, the district does not have the authority to cancel the season. They can however modify the schedule, move dates of games and determine the fate of the district playoffs.
Games that are not played due to COVID-19 will not count as forfeits as long as protocols are followed. If protocols were broken, the games would counted as forfeits against the school in violation. No matter how many games are played by each school this season, the district intends to follow the handbook’s procedures for seeding the teams for the postseason.
Fans, school bands and cheerleaders are still not permitted due to the state guidelines. Iacino stated that the Board is hoping there can be movement on that by the Governor’s office. Games are limited to just essential personnel as of now.
In the open letter, the District also released communication guidelines for schools regarding postponements due to the virus. Schools must report any COVID-19 cases in a “reasonable” timeframe. Iacino said that the district couldn’t dictate a specific timeframe in which schools need to be notified because the discovery of cases varies in relation to the game schedule. For the cancellation of a regular season game, the principal of the school that decides not to play must report in writing to their opponent and their respective District Chairman. Principals are also responsible for notifying during the postseason.
Decisions regarding the postseason were mostly put on hold until further meetings. The team bracketing rules for the playoffs were “conditionally” passed, but they are expected to be revisited as the season progresses.
There were preliminary discussions on the possibility of higher seeds in the tournaments playing on their home courts/fields/etc. instead of using neutral sites. This stems from the fact that many regional universities would not be available to the district for the postseason. District 10 was also informed that Buhl Park would be unavailable for the cross county championships this fall.
Also discussed was the possibility of reducing the number of teams and individual athletes to participate in the district playoffs in order to reduce the “footprint of the district.” Iacino mentioned during the meeting that all PIAA tournaments could see competition between just the district champions for the same reasons.
— A co-op between Maplewood High School and The Learning Center in Meadville for junior high boys football, basketball and volleyball was approved unanimously. The co-op will become official if it is approved by the PIAA at their Aug. 26 meeting.
— Despite not having any spring tournaments in 2020, the Board approved paying their spring tournament directors half of what they would normally receive each year. The compensation was justified due to the preparation work done in each sport.
— Iacino reminded those in attendance that the mercy rule in basketball has been changed. A 30-point scoring differential will institute a running clock in the second half of contests rather than the previous 40-point threshold.
— A revision in the district handbook regarding suspensions following ejections was approved. Any coach or player who is ejected for “confronting, contacting or addressing a coach, contestant, or official using foul or vulgar language, ethnic or racially insensitive comments or physical contact” will be handed a two-game suspension. This provision covers the timeframe from when the officials arrive at the game site until they leave the premises.
— During the tournament reports, baseball tournament director Kirk Scurpa reminded those in attendance that home teams will be required to provide an official pitch counter for each playoff game.
— By a slim 8-7 vote, the Board approved a provision regarding the payment of PIAA School Dues for member schools. The passed provision states that requires athletic directors to be active members in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Director’s Association. It costs $50 for athletic directors to join, according to the Board, and the cost would be absorbed by each individual school district. District 10 currently pays the school fees to the PIAA, which is about $40K total each year.
The next District 10 meeting will be held on Sept. 9, moved from the originally planned date of Sept. 7. The meeting 2020-21 meeting schedule that also approved by the Board will have meeting dates of Nov. 11, 2020; Jan. 13, 2021; April 7, 2021; and April 23, 2021.