The CIAC will ask the Connecticut Department of Health to consider allowing member schools to resume their conditioning practices as officials on both sides continue to work out a solution to the start of fall sports, the organization announced Friday morning.
The request comes as the two sides prepare to consult with Governor Ned Lamont’s ReOpen CT Rules Committee, which is also scheduled for Saturday, and will follow with another meeting of the CIAC’s Board of Control on Sunday night to submit a modified sports plan.
“There is a willingness from DPH to receive modified plans from us for fall sports and review those plans,” Lungarini said. “For the board (of control) good for them to know collaboration continues.”
The CIAC asked the DPH if sports conditioning, which has been going on since July 6, resume as early as Monday while pushing the official start of fall practices up two days to Saturday, Aug. 29.
“The CIAC understands that, at today’s ReOpen CT Rules Committee meeting, consideration will be given to the inconsistent guidance issued for CIAC interscholastic athletics versus non-CIAC youth sport opportunities,” the statement said. “The CIAC and the DPH will continue our collaborative work once an update from those discussions is available, either today or over the weekend.”
The delay, the release said, “will allow the DPH adequate time to consider CIAC’s revised fall sports plan, which it will submit early next week, and athletic directors the time necessary to begin a sports season.”
Lungarini said the reason for a Sunday night Board of Control meeting was because “our principals have professional development going on and teachers coming back. The ability to have meetings on this during the day is very difficult.”
When asked if he thought there was still an opportunity have football and girls volleyball this fall, Lungarini said they will “continue to present options to the DPH that they will consider and continue to collaborate any safe opportunity to provide those experiences (for those two sports).”
When asked if he thought the Sept. 24 start date for fall sports was in jeopardy, Lungarini said, “I can’t answer that until we put our revised proposals together. I understand the frustration everyone has and appreciate and share the opinion of our student-athletes and the large majority of parents and coaches who do think it is safe to play activities now. But the concerns DPH has are also valid concerns. … I hope people understand that this situation is caused more by COVID than anything else at this point.”
Thursday’s anticipated meeting between the CIAC and the Dept. of Health yielded no decision, with DPH holding firm on its recommendation that fall sports be introduced at least two weeks after the state’s schools had a chance to reopen.
The no-decision capped yet another anxious week for Connecticut’s high school athletes, coaches, parents and administrators.
Football was scheduled to begin cohort training on Aug. 17 and all other sports set to follow on Aug. 27, which was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote by the CIAC’s Board of Control on August 12.
But in a letter to the CIAC released the following day, Department of Health acting commissioner Deidre S. Gifford recommended that all fall sports should be paused until two weeks after schools had a chance to return to classes and that “high risk” sports like football and volleyball should be moved to spring.
In response, the CIAC announced a week-long sports conditioning moratorium so it could confer with the Department of Health on how it should proceed. The delay kick-started another round of anxiety across the state as the wait began anew.
As many school boards debated what the new recommendations would mean for their districts, others chose not to wait. With the DPH’s recommendation in hand, the New Haven Health Department and Bridgeport Public Schools both announced they would be shutting down some or all of their fall sports.
Dr. Diedre Gifford, acting CTDPH commissioner, today reaffirmed that she believed kids going back to school in large numbers is “part of the consideration as we look at fall sports… as we balance the risk of spread with the very real benefit of sports to kids” pic.twitter.com/F1ULD29jF2
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) August 20, 2020
In the hour leading up to Thursday’s scheduled meeting with CIAC, Gifford seemed to reaffirm her stance that schools should be allowed to reopen before fall sports during Gov. Ned Lamont’s press daily COVID-19 press conference.
“The fact that students are going to be gathering in large numbers in schools — which they haven’t been doing over the summer — that’s a consideration,” she said.
The CIAC, which has publicly maintained its desire to conduct a fall sports season since releasing its fall sports plan, published a letter of inquiry to the DPH in advance of their meeting. In it, the CIAC asked DPH what had changed in Connecticut’s COVID health metrics, especially since sports had already been reintroduced with youth leagues and games throughout the summer.
Connecticut’s COVID-19 metrics have remained relatively flat compared to the rest of the country. The Governor’s office announced a 1.2% positivity rate out of 7,518 tests Thursday, with 54 patients hospitalized and two deaths. The seven-day average held steady just over 100 new cases and one death.
At CIAC headquarters in Cheshire Thursday morning, Lungarini met and commiserated with a group of approximately 30 athletes and parents. He reiterated that the CIAC’s stance “hasn’t changed” since it released its fall sports plan, that the organization believes it’s safe to play based on the state’s favorable COVID-19 metrics.
Regardless of the meeting’s outcome, Lungarini said the CIAC would continue to look out for the students’ best interests, including finding other ways to conduct some form of competition in the fall. A parents coalition from Fairfield County, with some help from Connecticut Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-New Canaan/Wilton), presented their case for playing in Wednesday meeting with Paul Mounds, Gov. Lamont’s Chief of Staff.