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Madison school district athletics remain virtual for alternate fall season through March 26; phase-in plan for spring sports coming
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Madison school district athletics remain virtual for alternate fall season through March 26; phase-in plan for spring sports coming

WIAA Division 1 girls state swimming and diving meet

Madison Memorial's Jackie House competes in the 500 yard freestyle during the WIAA Division 1 girls state swimming and diving meet at the UW Natatorium in Madison, Wis., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL

The Madison Metropolitan School District plans to remain virtual for all alternate fall sports in the spring through March 26 and has canceled competitions through April 4, according to information Friday from Madison Memorial athletic director and school district athletic director Jeremy Schlitz.

The Madison school district — which includes Madison East, Madison La Follette, Madison Memorial and Madison West — plans to announce final decisions about in-person activities related to the WIAA alternate fall sports season by March 26, according to a release. Those decisions will be made on an individual sport basis.

While most WIAA football programs have opted to play a shortened fall schedule due to COVID-19, most Madison-area high schools — including the entire Big Eight Conference and every Rock Valley Conference school except Madison Edgewood — have committed to an alternative spring season, leaving their stadiums eerily empty this fall.

Sports may take place according to the WIAA calendar dates or later in the school year, possibly, according to the release.

Schlitz indicated in an email that it is possible some alternate fall sports will have in-person activities, but they will stay virtual through March 26, adding the district might use in-season dates or the 15 days of the school year the WIAA allowed contact later in the school year.

Jeremy Schlitz mug

Schlitz

The virtual programming will continue to follow the WIAA alternate fall dates, which include girls swimming and diving (Feb. 8), boys and girls volleyball (Feb. 22), boys and girls cross country (March 5), football (March 8), girls tennis (March 8), boys soccer (March 22) and girls golf (March 29).

Madison West football coach Brad Murphy told the State Journal last week he was organizing a club football team for the four Madison Public schools (primarily for seniors and juniors) in the event the district didn’t play WIAA football.

A timeline for phasing in WIAA spring sports is scheduled to be announced by March 12. The traditional spring sports seasons begin April 19, at the earliest.

Spring sports dates are baseball (April 19), boys golf (April 19), softball (April 19), boys and girls track and field (April 19), girls soccer (April 26) and boys tennis (May 3).

The timeline for phasing in those spring sports will have a “goal of providing the most complete and genuine experience for our athletes,” according to the release from Schlitz. “Using the WIAA allowed contact days, programming will include training on symptom screening and other mitigation strategies and potentially some March in-person activities, depending on local health and weather conditions. As our athletes return to spring sports, we know they will need time to re-adjust physically and mentally, and we will intentionally make this a gradual, supportive process.”

Schlitz indicated the district plans to use a phased approach to restarting in-person athletics, which follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health Madison & Dane County.

“We know students are eager for in-person athletics to start up again and we share the sense of urgency around resuming co-curriculars, recognizing the critical role sports play in so many students' lives,” according to the release.

Schlitz added: “We know that conditions around community transmission of COVID-19 can always change, as can health guidance and, of course, weather and field conditions. So we know we'll need to be flexible so that we can adapt to these unpredictable factors.”

As far as the current virtual athletics programming, according to the release: “We will continue to offer virtual athletics programming to all students. We know this is an important physical and mental health outlet for students and that the accountability it provides is an important support. During the WIAA calendar seasons, virtual athletics programming is expected to provide a minimum of 4-5 hours of activities per week, and 1-2 of those hours should be synchronous virtual training, athlete check-ins, and workouts, along with providing accountability and resources to support academics, engagement, grades, and attendance. We know our coaches are finding innovative ways to engage and connect. General out-of-season options will continue to be provided virtually throughout the school year.”

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.

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