Editor's Note: This story is part of The Partnership Project, a series of content written in an effort by The Daily News to follow the formal collaboration of Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools. Read more in this series here.
At the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) board meeting Tuesday, Muncie Central High School Principal Chris Walker, and athletic director, Tom Lyon announced the return of athletics in the school district and how it would happen. The plan will occur in three phases beginning July 6.
Walker said these plans come from recommendations by the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA).
“What we have done is try to put together a plan that is as safe as possible, not just for our student athletes, but for our coaches and staff that will be involved,” he said.
The first phase, which spans from July 6-19, allows teams to condition four days a week with each session lasting two hours. The athletes will only be allowed to attend one session per day.
Coaches will conduct screenings to detect any symptoms of COVID-19 in the athletes and those who show symptoms will not be allowed to participate in the session.
The weight room will operate at 50 percent capacity and lifts that require a spotter will not be allowed. The equipment will be cleaned and sanitized after every use.
Sport-specific activities will be limited to two sessions per week for each team. These sessions can last up to three hours for fall sports and an hour and a half for winter and spring sports with no practicing on consecutive days.
Lyons said the goal is for each player to have a designated water bottle and shared hydration stations won’t be allowed.
“If they don’t show up to practice with that water bottle, they can't come,” he said. “They need to have their own means of hydration.”
Athletes will not have access to locker rooms and bathrooms will be designated for the athletes and cleaned daily. Social distancing guidelines will be posted inside the bathrooms and hand sanitizer will be provided at the practice site.
Only essential team personnel will be in attendance for summer activities such as coaches, medical-related staff, supervisors and directors. They will all wear face masks but the masks are optional, but strongly recommended, for the athletes.
The athletes will only be allowed to practice 15 hours per week even if they play more than one sport.
“That’s one of those things where our coaches are gonna have to really do a good job of keeping track of their attendance,” Lyons said.
Beginning July 20 and ending Aug. 14, student managers will be allowed to attend conditioning sessions and weight room guidelines will remain the same. Contact will be allowed in sport-specific activities as defined by the IHSAA along with 7-on-7 scrimmages for football and open gyms for basketball.
Athletes will be able to use locker rooms at 50 percent capacity with social distancing guidelines. All other guidelines from phase one will still be in effect once phase two begins.
Starting Aug. 15, all forms of weightlifting will be allowed and the weight room will still operate at 50 percent capacity.
Fall sports practices will begin during this phase as well as formal competition. Concession stands will open with only prepackaged food being sold.
Lyons said his biggest question is the amount of people that can attend the football games, specifically the non-conference games against local schools like Delta High School and Yorktown High School. He said these games can bring in around $7,000-$8,000 in ticket sales.
“If we only have 500 people there, we’re not going to make that number,” he said.
Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, CEO and director of public education at MCS, talked about the school district’s plans to return for the 2020-21 school year which includes the option of attending classes five days a week in person or online. She said that a full plan for the school year should be ready by next week.
“I would like to make sure to let our community know that we are thinking about this, we are planning for it and Muncie Community Schools is going to be in good shape,” she said.
MCS has also changed their enrollment website to give students the option to enroll in online attendance for the coming school year. This, along with the plan of return for MCS athletics can be found online.
Kwiatkowski said Ball State is currently working on a website for MCS that contains information on COVID-19 and the guidelines and procedures they will be practicing during the school year.
The public can watch the full live stream of MCS board meetings on its YouTube page.