PVIAC says winter sports season won’t start until at least Jan. 4, 2021

Sports Editor
Published: 11/16/2020 4:45:56 PM

If there’s going to be a high school sports season in Franklin County this winter, it won’t start until at least early 2021.

The Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced Sunday evening that the earliest start date for a potential season would be Jan. 4, 2021. While the MIAA approved a timeline that would allow for a Nov. 30 start date, individual leagues and districts had the discretion to postpone until a later time.

“First off, we want you to know that our Executive Board, which is made up of principals and ADs, admire and stand behind all administrators in public education at this time,” the PVIAC said in a statement. “I believe this pandemic is hopefully allowing your teams to work smarter and grow closer. As a group, we have decided to go ahead with winter athletics, with each school board giving the OK for their particular school to compete.”

Under the PVIAC’s plan, the season would run from Jan. 4 through Feb. 21. That end date was unanimously voted on by the MIAA last month, and the Fall II season created for postponed fall sports (football, soccer and volleyball in Franklin County) would begin Feb. 22.

There are important steps happening this week in regards to holding a high school season. While the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) released its updated guidance on Nov. 6, the MIAA was scheduled to hold meetings Monday night with modification proposals from individual sport committees. For example, the basketball committee would present its list of modifications to the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee, and if approved, would move along to the MIAA’s COVID-19 Task Force. Ultimately, the Board of Directors will make final determinations, perhaps by the end of the week.

Turners Falls Athletic Director Adam Graves, who is on the PVIAC Executive Board, said the organization’s decision to push back the starting date of winter sports by over a month was necessary due to the evolving nature of the situation.

“Having to allow for modifications to all of these sports, we just needed more time,” Graves explained.

Graves said he anticipates Franklin County will operate in a local bubble again, similar to the fall season. That bubble would also include Athol High School, Smith Academy, Hopkins Academy and Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School. While basketball would be able to operate in a bubble among those schools, that wouldn’t be the case for hockey and swimming, as the area has just one program in each sport — Greenfield for hockey, Turners Falls for swimming. Specifics and details on those sports won’t be known until later this month or perhaps early December, as the MIAA’s next meeting of District 1 athletic directors is scheduled for Dec. 2. Franklin County ADs aren’t slated to meet again until Dec. 4.

From there, individual districts will likely be required to opt-in, some with school committee blessing (depending on remote-learning status). The PVIAC determined schedules will feature 10-12 games for sports like basketball, hockey and swimming, while skiing would likely feature 5-6 meets. Those alpine meets are again slated for competition at Berkshire East in Charlemont. Wrestling and indoor track have already been deemed unplayable for this winter.

The status of including spectators at games remains unclear, though the PVIAC specifically mentioned that they will follow the state’s guidelines. During the fall season, Franklin County elected not to have fans at their field hockey games, though some schools eventually relaxed those regulations.

“We truthfully know that athletics is the other half of education that help our young students complete their academic mission,” the PVIAC concluded in its statement. “The PVIAC believes in assisting each individual school in accomplishing their goals for all students.”

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