District announces safety plan for resuming sports activities

June 4, 2020 — Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene announced this week that outdoor conditioning for Duval County public high schools will begin the week of June 15 as part of the district’s first phase in safely returning to sports activities.

The district’s phased-approach plan was developed in consultation with the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program (JSMP), a sports/safety advocacy program and sports-medicine partner to the district. It includes three phases. Dates may change depending on factors surrounding the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Phase One — Begins June 15 and will focus on conditioning
  • Phase Two — Expected to begin June 29 and will include weightlifting
  • Phase Three — Expected to begin July 13 and will mark the return to actual practices

“Now knowing that it’s the governor’s expectation that football go on next year, we need to take appropriate steps to ensure students are physically ready,” said Dr. Greene. “We are only a week behind our normal training schedule. Our partnership with the JSMP will help us make sure we do this as safely as possible for students and staff.”

“We have worked together with our coaches and athletic directors across the state of Florida to develop a thorough and responsible Return to Activity (RTA) safety plan for our student-athletes,” said Tammie Talley, director of district athletics. “This RTA will take place under strict supervision of our coaches, who will implement safety guidelines. The start of this transition will allow student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after this recent period of inactivity. We are all extremely happy for this opportunity for our students.”

“Parents, student-athletes, and coaches should remember we remain vulnerable,” said Robert Sefcik, JSMP executive director and certified athletic trainer. “COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that can and will spread rapidly. We all must do our part to keep ourselves and others safe as we begin our return to sports. To remain healthy, athletes should wear a mask when in public areas; avoid large groups, including beach gatherings; wash hands frequently; and report any signs or symptoms, even if they seem minor. We all have an important role and responsibility to our teams in staying healthy.”

The district is also making plans to open summer programs for JROTC, band, and cheerleading in July. Some summer school activities and camps may also return in July, but it is premature to announce any specifics.

“We are working through logistics and action plans to be able to safely return to these activities next month,” said Dr. Greene.

Continuing to Monitor COVID-19

The district continues to monitor the pandemic situation in consultation with the local medical community in the development of plans for next school year. As the district monitors, it is preparing for multiple scenarios based on guidance from local, state, and federal agencies and doctors in the Jacksonville community.

“Using guidance from the JSMP and the leadership of our district athletic director, we are able to open our training program in a way that respects the immediate health of players and staff in the COVID-19 environment and with an eye toward our student-athletes’ health if full-contact begins later this year,” said Dr. Greene.

Expectations and guidelines for implementing the conditioning program are structured to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. These guidelines include the following:

  • Total group size will not exceed 20 (for example, 18 students with two coaches).
  • Groups should be the same individuals, including coaches, for each session to limit exposure. Student-athletes and/or coaches CANNOT change groups.
  • Sessions are one hour long with 15 minutes scheduled between groups to allow for exiting the facility.
  • No Friday, Saturday or Sunday workouts.
  • Temperature checks will be taken as athletes arrive to each session.
  • A mask is required for student-athletes and staff entering and exiting the facility and is encouraged during activity breaks.
  • Shirts with sleeves must be worn at all times — no tank tops.
  • No spectators allowed.
  • All student-athletes must bring their own water bottle and towel — no use of water fountains, water coolers, or water cows.
  • Locker rooms will not be available or open.
  • A designated restroom will be available. All other facilities will be closed.

Coaches are also required to keep thorough attendance records to support contact tracing if necessary.