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Within the current state of many questions and few answers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, one lingering question surrounding high school sports has been what will happen to student-athletes if, at any point, their schools have to scrap initial in-person reopening plans and move to all remote learning.

That question came to the forefront on Wednesday when Gov. Phil Murphy made two announcements regarding the upcoming academic year. First, Murphy announced he is signing an Executive Order that will officially allow both pre-k through 12 schools along with colleges and universities to reopen. His next announcement was that districts that cannot meet all the health and safety standards required for in-person learning must present their case to the state and could be approved to begin the year with all-remote learning. Public schools will have to spell out plans for satisfying any unmet standards to resume in-person instruction.

Previously, all schools had to offer some form of in-person learning, which most schools have planned on doing with a hybrid format of in-person and remote learning. Some school districts will open fully with myriad safety measures in place, while others, notably the Toms River Regional School District led by Superintendent David Healy, have said they could not envision having in-person classes to start the year.

If certain school districts opt for all-remote learning, would the student-athletes at those schools still be able to play sport, providing the season remains on as scheduled? The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association delivered its verdict shortly after Murphy's announcement and said those students will still be able to play.

“We are aware of the governor’s announcement today and are continuing on our current path. Schools – including those offering only virtual instruction – will have the option of participating in interscholastic athletics, although we certainly respect the decision of any school or athlete choosing not to participate," the NJSIAA said in a press release. "We remain in regular communication with state leaders and stand ready to modify as necessary.”

NJSIAA-sanctioned sports are currently in Phase 2 of its summer recess period guidelines and moving toward Phase 3, which will be in place until the August 28 conclusion of the summer period. There will be no contact of any kind, including practices and organized team activities, from Aug. 29 through Sept. 13. Practices may resume again on Sept. 14 leading up to the start of the season, which will be Sept. 28 for girls tennis, Oct. 2 for football and Oct. 1 for all other sports.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.