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Mackey confident fall sports will return

“There will be extracurricular activities.” That’s the message that Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey gave during a joint news conference on Friday morning.

Mackey, along with State Health Officer Scott Harris, provided a ‘Roadmap for Reopening Schools ‘ on Friday.

School athletics were shut down in March due to the threat of COVID-19. Only recently have student athletes been able to come together for team workouts. With questions still swirling about the status of school athletics, Mackey is confident that fall sports will take place.

“There will be extracurricular activities this fall and co-curricular activities on campus,” Mackey said. “They will look different. We are still working through those.”

Mackey went on to say that some activities might be easier to do than others. When it comes to fall athletics, Mackey is confident that those sports will resume, but again they will look different.

“The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) has worked very close with us,” Mackey said. “The Executive Director Steve Savarese and I talk multiple times per week about things he is hearing from other states and things I have been hearing from other states. They are working through safer protocols.”

Those protocols include cleaning equipment as much possible during activities, practices and games.

“Early on there were suggestions about cleaning the ball every time a child touches it,” Mackey said. “Anyone who has played volleyball knows you can’t do that. But, can you use a new ball every time there is a stoppage in the game? There are ways to make it safer and cleaner than what we have done before.”

Public school volleyball and football are scheduled to begin on August 20. When the season begins one of the biggest questions deals with how many fans will be allowed in the stadium. Mackey believes social distancing inside stadiums and gymnasiums is possible.

“There are ways we can do that,” Mackey said. “We saw that at graduation where families sat together but were six fee apart from the next family; all across the state we saw that. There are ways we can make our gyms and our stadiums safer for competition.”

One change that could be implemented before football season is extending the player box on the sideline, allowing player and coaches to social distance themselves.

“They’re going to change some other rules to allow players on the sideline to social distance better,” Mackey said. “One of the things we are talking about is the player’s box. If you can extend that to the 20 or the 10 then people can be more spread apart.”

Mackey also talked about the possibility of limiting the amount of people on the sideline.

“They always ask me as the State Superintendent if I want to stand on the sideline,” Mackey said. “If I go to a game this year I’m not going to stand on the sideline. We also don’t need the local mayor on the sideline, the county commissioners on the sideline and we don’t need legislators on the sideline. If you’re not coaching we need to be distancing. There are ways of reducing the congestion by reducing how many people are out there.”

As of Friday there is no rule stating that spectators must wear face coverings to an event. However local jurisdictions are able to force such rules.