MSHSAA to explore options for schools without in-person learning

The Missouri High School Activities Association Board of Directors voted on Tuesday to allow schools without in-person learning to compete in sports this fall.

In a statement released Tuesday, Aug. 4, MSHSAA said its board granted relief of the MSHSAA constitution’s requirement for member schools to provide instruction in a building or buildings. The change will allow schools that opt for entirely virtual instruction to participate in athletics and other activities provided all local health department requirements are followed.

MSHSAA also pushed back the release dates for fall classification and district assignments from Aug. 21 to Sept. 18. Member schools will now have until Sept. 11 to notify MSHSAA if they have a team that will not be able to compete in the postseason.

Additionally, MSHSAA gave relief for the requirement that a team must compete in at least half of the number of contests permitted for its sport to compete in the postseason. Teams that will not be participating in postseason competition will be removed from the classification process for that specific sport.

The board also granted relief for a by-law concerning the rules for preseason jamborees to allow schools the option of participating in a jamboree with a single opposing team.

These rule changes will only affect the 2019-20 school year.

MSHSAA had previously stated that it would maintain its stance on requiring in-person instruction to be eligible for athletic competitions, but the organization announced on Monday, Aug. 3 that it would reexamine all options as multiple Missouri schools started to postpone the start of the school year due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

“With the changing face of the start of the school year for our member schools, the Board and staff want to discuss possibilities that would allow as many students to participate as safely as possible,” MSHSAA Executive Director Kerwin Urhahn said. “The Association wants to work with schools to provide as many opportunities as possible.”

Clay County saw a spike as total positive cases doubled from 338 on June 23 to 711 on July 27, according to Clay County Public Health Center. On July 29, a White House coronavirus task force added Missouri to a list of 21 states designated as the “red zone” for new COVID-19 cases.

The Liberty and Kearney school districts are working on adjusting re-entry plans with a new start date of Tuesday, Sept. 8 while also creating an online option for students that prefer not to return to the classroom at this time. The Smithville Board of Education will hold a virtual meeting Thursday, Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss moving its start date as well.

All three districts are currently set to begin team practices on Aug. 10 after the end of MSHSAA’s mandated dead period from Aug. 3-9.