Return To Play Plan still on hold as IHSA awaits IDPH approval
The Illinois High School Association's release of its Return To Play Guidelines has been delayed a fourth time, as the IHSA awaits final approval of the plan from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"I recognize that IHSA schools, students and coaches are anxious for the IHSA Return To Play Guidelines to be released," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in an emailed statement Tuesday afternoon.
"In many ways, they represent the first step in a return to normalcy as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee was diligent in their development of these guidelines, and we have worked in good faith with the Illinois Department of Public Health to make sure our plan optimizes safety for high school students in Illinois."
The exact nature of the delay is unknown.
Zoom meetings scheduled for last Thursday and Friday as well as Monday and Tuesday of this week between the IHSA and the Illinois Athletic Directors Association have been postponed while the IHSA awaits approval of the plan.
"IDPH approval is vital in this process, and we understand and respect that they have pressing statewide issues to resolve that take precedence over high school sports," Anderson said. "Quarantine has been a test of patience, and now we ask our IHSA community for just a bit more of it as we collaborate with IDPH to finalize these Return To Play Guidelines."
It is believed the first stage of the plan will only allow for general conditioning, which will be allowed with restrictions. It is expected no balls or equipment will be allowed.
The natural progression would appear to be moving to summer contact days with balls, equipment, etc., but not before the state moves to Phase 4, which under Gov. J.B. Pritzker's reopening plan would not happen until June 26 at the earliest.
Pritzker closed all schools March 20 and all school facilities remain closed to students.
"We understand the return of athletics is important to our high school students from a physical, mental and emotional perspective, but we also recognize we must be in full accord with IDPH to maximize safety and help avoid any setbacks in reuniting our students with their coaches," Anderson said.
Several neighboring states have either rolled out their plans or have already begun to return to play in some form.
Iowa high school baseball and softball -- summer sports in that state -- began practices Monday and expect to begin competition June 15.
Michigan's safer-at-home order, originally scheduled to run until June 12, was lifted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday. The Michigan High School Athletic Association awaits approval of the return to high school sports guidelines it made public Friday.
Indiana has not yet made its plan public. Its schools are closed until June 30, with athletic facilities under that umbrella. Wisconsin also has not released a plan, although that state's stay-at-home order was rescinded by the state Supreme Court May 13.