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Practice schedule for fall sports remains ‘fluid’ for some

Preseason practice for fall high school sports in Missouri begins Monday, Aug. 10, and athletes from schools that are using virtual instruction only now can participate.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) Board of Directors – 10 people – met virtually on Tuesday, Aug. 4 and granted relief of two by-laws and a board policy. In doing so, the board opened the door to fall sports and activities participation by students whose school districts have chosen an all-virtual or part-virtual start to the 2020-21 school year.

In alphabetical order, the St. Louis County districts that will begin school virtually are Affton, Brentwood, Clayton, Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood, Kirkwood, Parkway, Pattonville, Ritenour, Rockwood and Webster Groves.

The release date for fall classifications and district assignments also has been modified.

“It’s has been a very fluid situation,” said Jason West, the MSHSAA’s director of communications. “We did have a board meeting in June and we had everybody in the office in Columbia because it was a different picture painted at that point. “

At that time, the MSHSAA chose not to permit any school district not having an in-person school option from allowing its athletes to practice and competition.

The MSHSAA’s statement then was the following: “If you are only offering virtual instruction with no face-to- face education, either temporarily or for the semester/year, you may not offer sports and activities during that period. Sports and activities are irrevocably and appropriately intertwined with education provided in the school building. The MSHSAA Constitution defines a school, in part, as being organized to deliver instruction to students who report to a common location. If conditions are such in your local area that you are unable to safely bring students to a common location for instruction, bringing students together for practice and competitions is inappropriate.”

That was then.

“We weren’t planning on making any significant changes unless something else happened and something else happened,” West said.

Some schools had requested the earlier guideline be looked at again. And the board of directors did that can. It then came to this conclusion.

This not about bending or reversing course despite the upheaval caused by the coronavirius. The MSHSAA has been flexible over the years since it was founded in 1926, West noted.

“This is not without precedent,” West said. “It’s actually in the language of the constitution of the association. That does talk about what a school is and how schools must meet in a school building to be a member.

“While virtual teaching is not in a building, a fundamental allowance to make that happen this year has been made. More flexibility is important. When the association was formed in 1926, there was no transfer rule. If you left your school to go another you were ineligible for 365 days, no questions asked. Now there are 10 exceptions to that rule.”

All that makes good sense, West said.

“As with everything, it evolves,” West aid. “The pandemic has made the association more flexible quicker than it has been.”

This new ruling means the decision on who can play and who can’t play is left up to the schools. MSHSAA is not involved.

“The schools can determine for themselves on what they want to do,” West said. “They can say we’re comfortable with golf and tennis playing and not comfortable football and volleyball or whatever the combination is for them.

“There are no mandates on what to do. They can take measures based on their own individual situations.”

Additionally, the board’s actions allow virtual competitions in activities with the technological capabilities to do so.

These changes apply to the 2020-21 school year only.

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