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The IESA’s latest sports plan among ever-evolving COVID pandemic

Dave Eminian
deminian@pjstar.com
Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) logo.

PEORIA — Boys basketball and girls volleyball still have an unknown future, wrestling has been moved to the spring, and chess canceled as the Illinois Elementary School Association revised its sports plans this week amid the COVID pandemic.

The IESA has directed its member schools to follow the guidelines set forth by the Illinois Department of Public Health for contact days in basketball and volleyball, and told its schools to follow the All Sports Policy for those two sports.

The IESA in its Monday meeting noted the ever-evolving guidelines and decisions made by the IDPH, the IHSA and schools amid the pandemic, and to that end more changes could be possible.

Gov. JB Pritzker moved basketball to a high-risk sport under his COVID restrictions -- effectively banning play for the winter season. The IHSA in late October defied that order and greenlighted its season to begin practices Monday and games on Nov. 30.

Some schools have since announced they will play the IHSA's winter season. Other districts have opted out.

The IESA had to reach a similar guidance plan for its schools.

"We all are trying to make decisions without knowing what the future holds," the IESA executive director Steve Endsley said. "Truly, all we can do is attempt to give direction to our membership based on what we know today and somehow still plan for the future of the IESA. Not an easy task.

“We want to give kids an opportunity to compete. It’s not that we want to deny kids that chance. We have to follow the IDPH guidelines. But this expectation that our level, and at IHSA level, that things can keep being moved ... we’re going to get to the point when everything is going to have to be played from April to June.

“It’s not possible. And I wonder if the (state agencies) that declare things moved to the spring are taking into consideration that there are other activities in that time period that schools have to handle, and that athletes who play multiple sports will be in a difficult situation. And what about officials? It’s just assumed there will be officials for all these events in the spring. A lot of them work in multiple sports, and will be needed at the elementary and high school levels.”

Here is the IESA plan for winter and spring sports:

BOYS BASKETBALL AND GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: The IESA notes it is still uncertain as of today whether schools will be able to participate in boys basketball and girls volleyball contests in January. If competition is not approved by IDPH by the time those activities are scheduled to begin, then the IESA board will meet to discuss the possibility of moving the seasons.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Currently scheduled to start March 8. If conditions require the boys basketball and girls volleyball season to be moved into the spring, scheduling becomes problematic. To have girls and boys basketball, girls volleyball, and track and field all in the spring is an almost impossible situation for schools and student athletes. Said IESA: "We want students to have an opportunity to play all the activities, but it will be difficult to accomplish this without causing students and schools to choose between activities."

WRESTLING: Has been moved to the spring. Practice may now start on April 5. Matches can begin on April 12 and run through May 28. If a regional tournament can be held, it will be held on May 29. If wrestling remains in the high risk or medium risk category on April 5, then the IESA wrestling season will be cancelled and not rescheduled.

TRACK AND FIELD: The IESA track and field season remains as originally scheduled.

CHESS: The chess activity for the 2020-21 school year has been cancelled. With upwards of 600 chess players in attendance at a tournament, it was not possible to conduct the event within the gathering guidelines established by IDPH.

No final decisions were made regarding scholastic bowl, bowling, and competitive cheerleading. The IESA staff is trying to determine if those activities can be held within the guidelines that have been established

You can find the updated IESA plan for 2020-21 here:

https://www.iesa.org/documents/health/IESA-AltNovPlan.pdf

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.