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SCISA lays out plan for return to sports for private schools amid coronavirus pandemic

High School Football Begins (copy)

The S.C. Independent Schools Association has laid out guidelines for how private schools like Porter-Gaud (seen here) can return to sports workouts and practices amid the coronavirus pandemic. Staff/File 

Porter-Gaud athletic director Larry Salley is going to have to find room in his budget for infrared thermometers, along with the usual balls, uniforms and other equipment. 

"We have several now, but we'll need some more," Salley said of the thermometers, used to screen students and coaches. "We have one in the weight room and hope to have a couple of more in there. We'll need three or four in the coaches' offices and some more to use on the fields.

"And they can be about 100 bucks a pop, so they are not inexpensive."

Taking the temperature of athletes and coaches is just part of the new guidelines laid out by the S.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association for a return to sports practices and workouts for the state's private schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

SCISA emailed preliminary guidelines to member schools last week to help them prepare for a return to team workouts, which can begin as soon as June 1. The SCISA guidelines are expected to closely resemble the plans for S.C. High School League members, Salley said. The SCHSL guidelines could be released as soon as this week, commissioner Jerome Singleton said.

The release of guidelines for the state's public and private high schools follows last week's recommendations from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

High school sports in South Carolina were shut down in mid-March, with no state championships determined in spring sports. The coronavirus has claimed at least 440 lives with more than 10,000 confirmed cases in the state.

The SCISA email said the organization plans to promote a "three-phase resocialization" of high school athletes. Phase 1 recommendations include:

• Daily screening for all athletes, including temperature checks.

• Weight training in groups of five per 1,000 square feet, with no more than 10 people, including coaches. 

• No use of locker rooms, and no use of balls or equipment for the first 14 calendar days.

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• Coaches and staff must wear masks or face coverings at all times. 

• Outdoor workouts of 10 participants or fewer, including coaches, with groups separated by at least 25 yards. Players within those groups should be at least six feet apart.

• Indoor workouts of five participants per 1,000 square feet, with social distancing.

• Athletes should bring their own water bottles and stagger arrival time for groups.

• No handshakes, high-fives or team huddles allowed.

Salley said Porter-Gaud, a private school in Charleston, is preparing to meet the SCISA guidelines.

"Obviously, we all want to be back open and we all want to have sports, if we're willing to do what it takes to get there," he said. "We want to do everything we are asked to do, everything we can to take the next step. We are committed to do whatever they ask of us, to smooth all the bumps in the road, to get our students back on campus and to get back to sports."

SCISA athletics director Mike Fanning said it is up to each school to decide when it's ready to return to sports practices and workouts.

"SCISA acknowledges that different areas of South Carolina may move to resocialization at a different speed than other areas," Fanning said in his email. "Each local school administration and board must decide when and what best fits their school’s extracurricular needs. This document in no way supersedes any mandates set forth by Governor McMaster or SCDHEC. It is intended to guide local school administrations toward thought-provoking discussions and in making decisions that best fit their local school community."

Gov. Henry McMaster announced last week that youth sports can begin practice May 30, with games returning no earlier than June 15. Health restrictions and social distancing guidelines must be in place for practices, warm-ups and games.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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