The state may be moving into Phase One of reopening Friday, but the Livingston Parish Public School System is proceeding cautiously before bringing athletics back fully into the fold in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The governor just made his announcement, and the devil’s in the details, so to speak,” LPPS Athletic Director Steve Parrill said shortly after Governor John Bel Edwards’ announcement Monday. “We have to see the proclamation and see exactly what it outlines that we can do and we can’t do, because the safety of our students and our staff is always going to be paramount over anything else.”
Parrill stressed that he had not physically seen or read the governor’s proclamation, but he hopes to later this week in order to get a better understanding of how the parish can proceed.
“Depending on what’s in the governor’s order is going to (determine) to what extent we can open up and allow activities,” Parrill said.
Additionally, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association will be holding a teleconference Wednesday to discuss its plans for Phase One.
“I think it is going to be a talk-it-out of what can or can’t happen from an LHSAA standpoint yet based on the governor’s proclamation,” said Springfield principal Spencer Harris, who is a member of the LHSAA Executive Committee, said. “The thing is, once the LHSAA says it’s OK, the parishes and the different leaders, like my superintendent or Tangipahoa (Parish) or different places, are still going to have to give approval or give permission based on that.
“We’re going to try to do something universal for everybody for competitive balance, but it may look different across the state.”
Like Parrill, Harris said he expects the LHSAA to be cautious with its process.
“I think the LHSAA, obviously, we want competition,” Harris said. “We want kids back playing. We want kids back competing. We want athletics. We want that. But we also need to make sure that we stay under the guidelines of what’s legal – the governor’s proclamation, what our local parishes are saying. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘hey, we can go play ball now.’”
At Monday’s news conference, Edwards announced the proclamation will come Thursday, lifting a stay-at-home order that’s been in effect for almost two months.
It would allow for ‘solo and non-contact’ sports and gyms and fitness centers, among other venues, to operate at 25 percent occupancy, including sanitation and physical distancing.
Parrill said he, LPPS Superintendent Joe Murphy and Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis will meet to look at the governor’s proclamation and then will meet with school principals, who will bring in suggestions from their coaches, in an effort to formulate a plan to move forward with extracurricular activities. He also noted that school facilities are used for baseball, basketball, cheerleading, dance, band, 7-on-7 football during the summer.
“Once we get that (proclamation), then we have to digest it, and all of our schools have been told ‘no activity until the superintendent green-lights it’, and we’ve had to reiterate that a number of times,” Parrill said.
“Where we are now is we have to develop some procedures and guidelines that we can all live with that are going to keep the kids safe and allow and work within the governor’s proclamation,” Parrill continued.
“We want to have the kids back, but it’s got to be safe,” Parrill said.
Parrill said activities will look different and used weightlifting sessions as an example.
“Ideally, there’s going to be a limited number of kids, but we have to look at the cleaning aspect,” Parrill said. “After one group of kids comes in, we have to wipe everything down or have a procedure in place for the next group that comes in. A lot of this is not just having the kids on campus, but what are we going to do to prepare it for the next group that comes in, and do we have the manpower and staff and how is this going to look?”
Harris said the logistics of lifting weights in smaller groups could mean an all-day event for larger schools with more athletes.
“And then we’ve got to find out, is it four (station groups) inside at a time? Could we do 10 inside and 10 outside? We’ve got to really look at it (proclamation) and have a chance to get the exact information to be able to make a decision,” Harris said.
Parrill is also aware that distancing could become difficult in certain situations.
“Athletics is inherently people getting close up together trying to beat the other one,” Parrill said. “The thing is, you could have certain practices and conditioning and such where people are non-contact in any sport … and maintain your social distancing.
“The flip side on this is coaches and kids are competitive. You put them in that setting, they’re going to interact with each other. That’s just the nature of it.”