School systems announce plans for fall sports amid COVID-19 concerns

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FOLEY, Alabama — Baldwin County Public Schools and Gulf Shores City School systems announced guidelines for fall sports late last week amid Coronavirus concerns.

Baldwin County Schools announced guidelines in a Facebook post on Friday, Aug. 14 saying that the school system would “play competitive sports under guidelines set forth by the Alabama High School Athletic Association and Governor (Kay) Ivey’s current health order.”

In a memorandum dated Thursday, Aug. 6 AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese urged superintendents, principals and athletic directors to review the “AHSAA Best Practices Return to Play” found at ahsaa.com and the “Current Order of the State Health Officer” found at alabamapublichealth.gov.

“AHSAA Best Practices Return to Play” is a nine-page document approved by the Alabama Board of Education on July 22 and updated July 29 that provides guidance for preseason practices, regular season and post season play and includes guidelines for physical distancing, wearing masks, sanitation of facilities, ticketing and transportation guidelines.

In its Facebook post on Friday, Baldwin County Public Schools stated that “the following changes are among the procedures being implemented to protect school employees, students, fans and others for both indoor and outdoor events”:

Baldwin County Public Schools reserves the right to amend these requirements as they deem necessary, according to the post.

The post also included statements from Marty McRae, Baldwin County Public Schools Assistant Superintedent and County Athletic Director and Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler.

"Just as we made the decision to open school, safely and with options, we are going to open our sports, safely and with options," McRae said. "No one is being required to attend, play or participate. If they choose to come, they will enter our facilities only if they are complying with requirements for entry."

Superintendent Eddie Tyler said that sports are an essential part to many children's education.

"As a coach and educator for over 45 years, I cannot draw a line between our student's learning on the field and off the field," said Tyler. "For many students, this is THE motivating factor to which their success can be attributed. For some, sports could be their passage to the next level of their life. We will continue to monitor our teams’ activities, reporting any diagnosed COVID and responding under our phase three protocols. I cannot speculate if we can play the whole season or if this will be a shortened version, but for now, our goal is the state playoffs unless we determine otherwise."

In a statement issued Thursday, Aug. 13 Gulf Shores City Schools stated that all sporting events held at any athletic facilities of the Gulf Shores School System, both indoor and outdoor:

Online advanced ticket sales for admission and parking will be the only form of ticketing available for events at the Gulf Shores SportsPlex, according to the statement. The link for all ticket sales will be activated on Monday of game week.

Tickets for all other Gulf Shores athletic events will only be provided through online ticketing and will be made available the day of the contest beginning at 8 a.m. and will be available until the events’ capacity is reached.

According to the statement, normal capacity at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex, home of Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium, along with baseball and softball facilities, is approximately 3,200 attendees.

The Spanish Fort Toros and the Fairhope Pirates are set to kick off the 2020 high school football season on Thursday, Aug. 20 at Fairhope Municipal Stadium.

Five Baldwin County public schools will host contests on Friday, Aug. 21 including two county rivalry games, Elberta at Gulf Shores and Foley at Robertsdale, while Baldwin County High School will host Mary G. Montgomery of Semmes, Daphne will host Lee High School of Montgomery and Orange Beach will host J.F. Shields of Beatrice.

Spanish Fort will take on St. Paul’s, Elberta will square off against Robertsdale and Foley will host 7A Region 1 rival Murphy for their first home contests on Aug. 28.

Among private schools, Bayside will start its season Aug. 21 at Escambia County High School in Atmore and will be on the road two more weeks before hosting Hillcrest of Evergreen on Sept. 11.

St. Michael’s Catholic High will host its season opener against McIntosh on Aug. 28. Snook Christian Academy had its first two games of the season, both road games at St. Patrick Catholic High of Biloxi on Aug. 21 and at Rocky Bayou Christian in Niceville, Florida, canceled because of Coronavirus concerns.

The Eagles will now open at home against Jackson Academy Sept. 4 at Summerdale School’s stadium.

Bayside and St. Michael’s both follow Alabama High School Athletic Association protocols while Snook is governed by the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA).