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H.S. Sports: VACA tentatively announces Oct. 19 as start of fall seasons

H.S. Sports: VACA tentatively announces Oct. 19 as start of fall seasons

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The Virginia Association of Christian Athletics has adopted a prep sports calendar for the 2020-21 school year, but it is a plan that one of the group’s top officials believes is unlikely to make it to opening day.

Representatives of the VACA’s approximately 20 schools voted unanimously Wednesday for a Plan A athletics calendar that would begin Oct. 19 and run through May 15:

Fall sports (volleyball, boys soccer) Oct. 19-Dec. 12 play dates.

Winter sports (boys basketball, girls basketball) Jan. 12-March 4.

Spring sports (baseball, softball, girls soccer, golf) March 8-May 15.

Two fall sports — cross country and tennis — are not affected by Wednesday’s vote and can proceed as scheduled.

The new VACA calendar is contingent on no student in grades K-12 at any VACA school testing positive for COVID-19 before the first fall play date on Oct. 19.

There is one major hurdle in front of the VACA’s Plan A.

If a VACA student tests positive, the association would immediately switch to a schedule similar to what the VHSL approved Monday for the state’s public schools.

The VACA Plan B is for winter sports (Nov. 30-Feb. 13), fall sports (Feb. 15-April 10) and spring sports (April 12-May 22).

“It’s very strict stipulations,” said VACA assistant commissioner Wayne Pettway of Ridgeview Christian School in Stuarts Draft. “The chances of no COVID cases in a kindergartner or a first grader or whoever in the whole school by Oct. 19 … it’s just not going to happen, probably.”

Pettway said Plan A could be scrapped later this year even without a student testing positive.

“When we get to mid-September and the virus has taken an uptick, whether anybody has a positive test or not we’re probably going more with Plan B, to stay more in line with the VHSL because we don’t want to open yourself up to liability for going too far outside the box,” he said.

Most VACA schools plan for in-person learning with daily temperature checks of students, Pettway said.

“All of our schools, to the best of my knowledge, either have a kiosk or hand-held thermometer where kids have their temperature taken every day as they get to school,” he said.

“It is a little invasive, but you do what you’ve got to do to protect the school. If they show up with a fever, they’re gone [home] and they’ve got to go test then.”

Pettway said if a student tests positive for the coronavirus after the beginning of the fall season, the VACA hopes to come up with a contingency plan before its next meeting Aug. 12.

“We have a COVID committee of five people,” he said. “They are meeting and hashing out the details for our Aug. 12 meeting.”

Wednesday’s meeting included representatives of “11 or 12” VACA schools attending in person at Ridgeview Christian. Other representatives took part in a video conference.

Pettway said further that if the VACA puts Plan B into effect and that schedule needs an adjustment, it would be done by Nov. 30.

VACA schools from Timesland include Faith Christian, Roanoke Valley Christian and Southwest Virginia Home School, Christian Heritage and Smith Mountain Lake Christian and Dayspring Christian.

Athletic directors at the respective schools now must redo their respective teams’ schedules for the upcoming year.

“I had basketball, volleyball, everything scheduled until about three hours ago,” said Nancy Castillo, the AD at Christian Heritage in Rocky Mount.

“Cross country will take a beating because a lot of the meets cross country went to were with public schools. The other schools in VACA that do have cross country, we’re just going to try to host each other as many times as possible.”

With each season compressed into fewer weeks, VACA teams’ schedules likely will be much lighter. VACA schools traditionally do not play games on Wednesdays for religious reasons.

One VACA North Division member — Stuart Hall of Staunton — already has canceled all its athletic events until January.

“They didn’t come right out and say it today, but I feel sure we’re going to have to go with our conference schools first, playing everybody twice,” Castillo said. “Nonconference [teams], we try to play once, if travel allows that. “

Castillo said she and her colleagues are simply taking the best course to follow health protocols.

“The ultimate goal [is] to keep everybody safe,” she said. “I understand completely, and there’s no wavering from that.”

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The Virginia High School League on Friday modified its guidelines for out-of-season practices, paving the way for more team-based workouts including the use of sport-specific equipment.

It is not full-scale out-of-season practice or open gyms, but it is a step up from individual conditioning drills that teams have been limited to since the VHSL began allowing limited workouts in late June following the complete shutdown caused by the virus in March.

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