Now the work really begins toward a fall season

Field hockey is one of the fall sports that will be able to begin pre-season practice on Sept. 28. Delaware State News file photos

There was one question that seemed to linger over the state Board of Education meeting on Thursday evening.

What had changed so much in the outlook for high school sports in just a month?

How did the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association go from unanimously voting to delay the season until December to starting it later this month?

Sussex Central High principal Dr. Bradley Layfield, the president of the DIAA board of directors, said simply having school start up over the past few weeks changed his perspective. He said he now has a better understanding of dealing with school life during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If I was to take where I am now, in re-opening Sussex Central High School, versus where I was in the first week of August, it is very different,” Layfield said on Thursday night, “toward what I feel comfortable with, what our staff feels comfortable with and where we are in providing instruction and education to students.

“It’s far different (now) because we have a lot more information to go by,” he added.

However they got there, state officials have now agreed that scholastic sports can be played in Delaware this fall. The state board voted 4-3 on Thursday night to allow the DIAA timetable of having schools begin pre-season practice on Sept. 28.

Fall sports will then start competition on Oct. 19 except for football, which will get underway on Oct. 23.

Football teams were given a little longer to prepare as they aren’t slated to begin playing games until Oct. 23.

Now the work starts in earnest toward actually playing high school sports for the first time since last March.

But that doesn’t mean all the debate has ended. Individual school districts can still decide to keep their schools out of sports this fall.

Kelly Klerlein Boettcher, the mother of two senior Caravel student-athletes, started the Facebook group that has 4,000 members who pushed to play sports in the fall.

“Our biggest concern is putting the pressure on the schools to make sure all these kids get the opportunity to play,” she said on Friday. “The parents are hopefully doing their part today and getting that message sent out to the districts.”

In the Henlopen Conference, only Early College@DSU is believed to be opting out of fall sports. The small Dover school has varsity programs in only cross country and volleyball during the fall.

Athletic director Kevin Turner said Dover High athletes have been wearing masks during workouts.

Among some of the questions still to be decided is how many fans — if any — will be allowed to attend games? Current state regulations allow only 250 total people at an event.

Will there be junior varsity and freshman contests? With current limits of 20-some students currently permitted on buses, how many athletes will teams send to competitions? Will there be bands and cheerleaders allowed at football games?

On Wednesday night, the Capital School Board started debating some of those questions. The board eventually voted 4-1 to allow Dover High to compete in athletics this fall.

“I think everybody involved has questions and concerns,” Dover athletic director Kevin Turner told the school board. “But I do think you have to start somewhere.

“Our athletes have already started to prepare with masks so we’re trying to get ahead of that process — so they don’t feel inhibited by wearing the mask. So far it’s gone pretty well. … They want to get on the field, I can tell you that. I’ve had to shoo them off all summer long. I’ve chased a lot of kids. I’m happy to have them back and I’m ready to see them play.”