Baker volleyball

Baker’s Hailey Zikmund spikes the ball during a volleyball match in the Baker gym in September 2019.

Though Baker High School classrooms will be devoid of students when the school year starts Sept. 8, weights will be clanking in the weight room this fall.

Students will run around the track.

And some BHS athletes will be able to practice with their teammates.

The official high school sports season isn’t slated to start until late December due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA), which governs high school sports, has established guidelines that allow school districts this fall to have practices for some sports and, potentially, unsanctioned competition between schools.

And Buell Gonzales Jr., the Baker School District’s athletic director, intends to jump at the opportunity.

Gonzales has divided fall into three “mini sessions.”

The first, for traditional spring sports — baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field — runs from Sept. 7 to Oct. 9.

The second session, from Oct. 12 to Nov. 13, is for traditional fall sports — football, cross-country, volleyball and soccer.

And the third mini session, Nov. 16 to Dec. 18, is for usual winter sports — basketball, wrestling and swimming.

During the mini sessions, teams for each sport will be able to practice on school property — although some sports will be limited to training and conditioning only — so long as they comply with COVID-19 guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education. These include wearing masks indoors, and outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible.

Teams in some sports could also potentially have games, possibly against other schools, during the final two weeks of each mini session.

Student-athletes who want to participate in the mini sessions still need to show proof of residence and have an updated physical.

Multisport athletes are encouraged to participate in all of the mini sessions, Gonzales said.

During the sessions, coaches are encouraged to have normal practices, to the extent possible.

But some sports will be limited, and others could be affected depending on whether Baker students are taking all online classes, or whether they return to in-person classes on some or all days.

The Baker School Board has decided that all classes will be online — what’s known as Comprehensive Distance Learning — for at least the first nine weeks of classes, starting Sept. 8.

That’s through Nov. 6, which includes all of the first mini season and all but one week of the second.

The strictest limits affect football, wrestling and basketball — sports with close contact among players and thus the highest risk of spreading the virus.

According to OSAA regulations, during the fall mini sessions football and basketball players, and wrestlers, can do training and conditioning but they cannot have regular practices or any event that includes full contact between athletes.

Restrictions for other sports depend on whether the practice or event is indoors or outdoors, and whether or not students are still taking all classes online.

For indoor volleyball, for instance, players are limited to training and conditioning while students are taking all online classes, but “full participation” is allowed — practices and, potentially, games — if BHS students resume some in-person classes.

Baker School District Superintendent Mark Witty has said the district’s goal is to have in-person classes — potentially in a hybrid model, with students returning to school on two days per week — as soon as possible.

Regulations are less stringent for several other outdoor sports, including soccer, cross-country, tennis, golf, baseball, softball and track and field.

Athletes in those sports can have regular practices, and potentially games, regardless of whether BHS has all online classes or students return to classrooms.

Gonzales said La Grande High School has the same schedule of mini sessions this fall, which raises the possibility of Baker vs. La Grande contests in those sports for which games are allowed.

Again, this would not include football, basketball or wrestling.

Regular, OSAA-sanctioned sports seasons will begin Dec. 28, the first day practices are allowed for traditional winter sports — basketball, wrestling and swimming. That seasons concludes March 6.

The season for traditional fall sports is set for Feb. 22 to May 1, and the season for traditional spring sports will run from April 19 to June 26.

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