Reopening the Region: Northeast Tennessee HS athletic directors, students prepare for start of practice


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Local high school athletics are returning in less than two weeks for practice, that is.

A group of Northeast Tennessee athletic directors and school superintendents approved plans to allow facilities open on June 1.

Clearly, the coronavirus has shaken up the sports world but local athletic directors are working to bring back sports training to where everyone involved can be safe.

Before student athletes and coaches enter facilities, they will undergo screenings.

“Temperature checks, documentation of attendence, so that we’re performing some basically, well-checks for our students and our employees that are coming into work together, so that we can safe-guard everyone and make sure that everyone does not have symptoms,” Elizabethton City Schools athletic director, Forrest Holt told Pheben Kassahun.

“We’re staying in groups of 10. That includes the coach, or two coaches and eight athlete,” Bristol Tennessee City Schools athletic director, Barry Wade said.

Bristol Tennessee City Schools plan to move weightrooms outside, for safety and efficiency.

Wade said, “That way, we can have two groups going at one time. One group would be on one end of the field, actually doing the weightroom and weightlifting, while the other ones on the other end are doing the drills and stuff like that.”

Elizabethton High School football player, Conner Johnson is looking forward to returning to the field.

“I’m really excited about it. It’s a been of a struggle trying to get everything in order to get organized,” Conner Johnson said. “I have a machine that I use, which isn’t really a lot.”

Johnson trusts the plan and understands the need to be cautious.

“I’m not really concerned that much for my safety or any of the others’ players safety but still safety is important and I feel like, when we clean the weightroom after we work out, that’s going to be a big part of keeping us safe,” Johnson said.

Football isn’t the only sport returning on June 1.

“More specifically, our fall sports: football, cross country, girl’s soccer. and golf are going to be able to get back and do some conditioning and training, and some drills,” Holt said.

There will also be no contact whatsoever during these practices, according to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.

Below is the full list of guidelines of the Northeast Tennessee School Systems Scholastic Activities Return to Action Plan:

  • Maintain safe and healthy communities 
  • Position our region for a return to normal scholastic activities in the fall 
  • Safely return our students and instructors to scholastic activities 
  • Prioritize student and instructor care 
  • Ensure effective community communication 
  • Provide consistent symptom assessments 
  • Enact standard record keeping 
  • Ensure safe student/instructor management 
  • Ensure effective facility management 
  • Ensure safe equipment management 
  • Maintain flexibility 
  • No student or instructor will feel pressure to participate in any onsite, face to face activities 
  • No student or instructor will experience any repercussions for not attending onsite, face to face workouts 
  • Students with risk factors may not participate in activities 
  • Students and instructors must have pre-activity, basic symptom evaluation each day of attendance 
  • Each student and family/guardian will be notified of the return to activities plan 
  • Methods will vary with system – email, Schoolcast, etc. 
  • Release return to action plan to media and share on social media  
  • Keep the plan available for review by the community 
  • Methods will vary with system  
  • All students and instructors will have their temperature taken each day 
  • Procedure for thermometer use will be determined by each system 
  • Any student or instructor with a fever of 100.4 degrees or greater will return home immediately – students unable to leave immediately will be kept separate from the group 
  • The student or instructor must be temperature free for 3 days before return to workouts  
  • A return to activities verification form must be completed by the parent/guardian – form includes daily temperature readings and the daily symptom questionnaire 
  • Students and instructors must have pre-activity basic symptom evaluation each day of attendance – evaluation will be logged for each student/instructor each day 
  • Do you have an unexplained cough? 
  • Do you have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing? 
  • Have you been out of the county in the last 14 days?  If yes, when and where? 
  • Have you been around anyone who has had COVID-19? 
  • Have you had COVID-19? 
  • Protocol if a student/instructor is known to have been in contact with someone who has or has had COVID-19  
  • The student/instructor will not attend activities for 2 weeks after the last contact with the affected individual 
  • The student/instructor must have been symptom free for the entirety of the 2 weeks 
  • If the student/instructor develops symptoms, then the individual will follow the guidelines for a student/instructor that has been infected 
  • Protocol if a student/instructor has been diagnosed with COVID-19  
  • Symptom-based strategy 
  • Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions: 
  • At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and, 
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appearedMore information here.
  • Protocol if a student/instructor has been diagnosed with COVID-19 but was asymptomatic 
  • Time-based strategy 
  • Persons with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions: 
  • At least 10 days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test assuming they have not subsequently developed symptoms since their positive test. If they develop symptoms, then the symptom-based or test-based strategy should be used. Note, because symptoms cannot be used to gauge where these individuals are in the course of their illness, it is possible that the duration of viral shedding could be longer or shorter than 10 days after their first positive test. More information here.
  • Daily attendance and daily symptom assessments for students and instructors will be maintained on a standard form 
  • Records will be kept according to activity group 
  • Instructors will turn in an activities plan to the school-appointed director for approval 
  • The instructor of each group will confirm the execution of protocols for that group through a weekly form that is to be turned in to the school-appointed director 
  • Only school personnel, instructors, and students will be allowed in facilities – no spectators 
  • Each activity group will consist of a maximum of 10 people 
  • In most cases this will be 9 students and 1 instructor 
  • Members of the activity group will remain the same each day (excluding instructors) to aid in contact tracing if necessary 
  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet will be maintained at all times 
  • No physical contact of any kind among activity participants 
  • Activity times could be staggered as needed to prevent mixing of groups before and after activities 
  • Students must arrive to activities dressed – no changing facilities will be provided 
  • Some activities may require mask  
  • The instructors will notify students of these activities 
  • Only school personnel, instructors, and students will be allowed in facilities – no spectators 
  • Activity groups will be separated with sufficient buffer zones between groups if in the same areas 
  • No locker rooms will be available 
  • Activity groups should be assigned specific parking areas if possible  
  • Parking lots will be monitored to ensure no gathering of students 
  • A restroom plan will be in place limiting the number of students in the restroom at one time 
  • Indoor facilities that have been used will be cleaned and sanitized between group sessions 
  • Students will not share unsanitized equipment  
  • School equipment will be sanitized before use by different athletes 
  • Students will only use equipment that can be used safely without aid (spotter) 
  • Students will bring their own water bottles or will obtain a disposable bottle of water from their instructor 
  • Water bottles left after activities will be disposed of 
  • Athletic directors, school personnel, and health officials will continue to meet, plan, and discuss future changes to the current plan as conditions dictate 

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