In alignment with Executive Order 20-103 announced Dec. 16 by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the Minnesota State High School League can begin in-person practice for winter sports and activities on Monday, Jan. 4.

Thirteen days ago, the League’s Board of Directors approved a flexible scheduling model, presented by the Return to Participation Task Force, which will adapt to the new Executive Order. The new mandate modifies and is an extension of Executive Order 20-99 that went into effect on Nov. 20 and was set to expire Dec. 18. The first date of competition under the new directive has not yet been determined.

Member schools have the option to begin in-person participation at a later date if it best aligns with their district’s COVID-19 response plan.

“If we return to hybrid learning at the high school on Jan. 4, we would start practices,” St. Peter Activities Director Jordan Paula said. “Our School Board meets Monday, Dec. 21 and will decide on our learning model coming back from break.

“As the others have mentioned, it is still undetermined when we’ll be able to start competitions and whether we’ll be able to have fans in attendance.

“I’m encouraged by the governor’s decision and this was a significant first step, but we have a long road ahead. We all want to provide an outlet and sense of normalcy for students, but the emphasis should be getting them in the classroom. Our challenges of positive cases, close contacts, and contact tracing are not going to go away. It will take discipline within our respective communities to stay diligent so the case rates continue to fall.”

Cleveland Activities Director Rich Kern said Cleveland will start practices on Jan 4. “We will have to wait and see what the timeline is for games to start from the league. I think its a good start to getting students back into a routine as long as they follow safe protocols so we can have a winter season and carry that into a successful spring season for all.”

Le Sueur-Henderson is also planning on starting high school practices on Jan. 4: “Waiting to hear about when games can start,” LS-H Activities Director Jeff Christ said. “We will be putting our safety protocols into place and hoping for a safe and successful winter season, however it may look.”

“Tri-City United does not plan to start practice on the 4th at this point,” Activities Director Chad Johnson said. “We will have a Command team meeting on Monday to discuss. Games can resume on Jan. 14, 18 or 25. I have heard some of all three.”

On Jan. 4:

• Gymnastics, girls and boys basketball, girls and boys hockey, wrestling, boys swimming and diving, girls and boys nordic skiing and girls and boys alpine skiing may begin in-person practice.

• The dance season may resume in-person practice sessions.

• Adapted floor hockey may begin its training season.

Under that model, all teams start practice Jan. 4, with the first games for most sports allowed to begin Jan. 14 after 10 days of practice. Gymnastics, under the MSHSL model, will require two and a half weeks of practice to provide more time to ensure routines can be performed safely in competitions.

“While we recognize that our students, coaches and families are anxious to return to activities and athletics, the Jan. 4, 2021, date aligns well with many member schools’ calendars as they return from extended breaks,” said League Executive Director Erich Martens. “This opportunity to participate in athletics and activities also comes with great responsibility. It is critical that all students, coaches, directors and officials maintain the highest standard of health and safety, both in and outside of school. Everyone must actively share the responsibility of reducing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping themselves and others safe and healthy.”

The Minnesota State High School League will continue to work with the Minnesota Department of Health and the League’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to review and update the Sports and Activities Guidance and Information that will further clarify, reinforce and implement the commitment to providing the safest environment for all involved.

“The League appreciates the hard work of Gov. Walz and state departments in recognizing the significance and importance of these activities and athletics for our students,” Martens said. “Through participation in League activities and athletics, our students have enhanced physical and mental health and well-being. And, when they participate under the leadership and mentorship of League-trained and certified coaches and directors, implementing League provided protocols and guidance, they can enjoy the safest possible experiences.”

Reach Sports Editor Pat Beck at 931-8566 or follow him on @SPHSportsPat. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

St. Peter Herald Sports Editor covers St. Peter, Cleveland, Le Center, Le Sueur-Henderson and Tri-City United and Gustavus Adolphus College. Fishing, tennis and golf enthusiast

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