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ATHLETES: REMEMBER TO GET A CURRENT PHYSICAL FOR 2021
 
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With Mitigation Steps in Place, Give a Green Light to High School Performing Arts Programs

By Dr. Karissa Niehoff on March 17, 2021nfhs news
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In addition to the almost eight million participants in high school sports, more than four million students are involved in other education-based activities such as speech, debate, music and theatre.

And the importance of these programs is being highlighted this month with the celebration of Music in our Schools Month (MIOSM). Although this is an annual event each March, this year’s celebration is particularly special given our nation’s struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NFHS and the National Music Council collaborated on a special video to kick off MIOSM. The video featured several of America’s greatest artists thanking music teachers and letting them know the importance of their efforts in the lives of students – especially in times of crisis like the pandemic.

This video, featuring artists like Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Paul Shaffer and many others thanking music educators, has been viewed thousands of times and has drawn rave reviews. 

The support for music educators from these luminaries has been uplifting because, unfortunately, high school music programs – in many cases – have not proceeded as quickly to a return to activities from the pandemic as their counterparts on the athletics side.

And as many states and schools return to spring sports competition, we would urge that music activities – singing and instrumental programs that are on the calendar – be given equal consideration to return to regular in-person participation.

In cases where schools have returned to 100-percent in-person instruction, there is much research and data to support the allowance of playing instruments and singing in the classroom – with proper mitigation protocols in place.

The NFHS, the College Band Directors National Association and more than 125 performing arts organizations have been involved in an unprecedented aerosol study to determine mitigation strategies that would allow performing arts activities to continue during the pandemic.

Through three sets of results, the study has shown that if music participants wear masks, use bell covers for instruments, maintain social distancing, reduce rehearsal time and increase and/or improve ventilation, aerosol emission can be reduced by up to 90 percent.

Complete information from the three rounds of results of the NFHS aerosol story can be obtained here: https://www.nfhs.org/articles/unprecedented-international-coalition-led-by-performing-arts-organizations-to-commission-covid-19-study/

Despite the findings from this study conducted by research teams at the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland, many music rooms remain dark and silent while classes are in session in other parts of the school building.    

Bob Morrison, director of Arts Ed New Jersey, which was one of the sponsoring organizations of the aerosol study, noted that the efforts to reinstate winter indoor sports, such as basketball and wrestling, amid the pandemic have been helpful to the performing arts cause.

In the March issue of the NFHS’ High School Today magazine, Morrison noted, “If (departments of health) are going to allow contact athletics like wrestling and basketball to go on – if 10 student-athletes can run up and down the court and bang into each other without masks, and that’s okay – then a quartet wearing masks and socially distancing should be able to play, too.”

We are in full agreement with that assessment. Music activities, along with speech, debate and theatre, should be given an equal opportunity to practice, perform and compete this spring in cases where schools are in session. While many states have conducted some of these activities successfully in a virtual setting, there is nothing to replace in-person participation – if proper mitigation protocols are followed.

We give a special shout-out to all educators in high school performing arts programs for their tireless efforts during the 2020-21 school year. Music, speech, debate and theatre programs provide invaluable lifelong learning experiences for millions of high school students every year. We encourage continual support for these vital education-based activities.

Patience Needed as States Develop Plans for Restarting High School Sports, Performing Arts

 

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS Executive Director


For several weeks, Americans have been awaiting answers to several questions. When will restaurants restart dine-in services? When will hair salons and gyms be open? When will people be able to congregate for worship services? And, of course, when will education-based sports and performing arts programs return?
           

And the answer to the all-important last question is the same as the first three – it varies from state to state.
           

If there was ever any doubt about the popularity and interest in high school sports and performing arts – and how much these programs have been missed during the past three months – it was erased last week as the NFHS released its Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities document.
           

The response was non-stop through the mainstream media as well as our social media platforms as the first nationwide discussion about the return of high school sports and other activities was in full swing.

Since that disappointing week in mid-March when it seemed like all of life came to a halt, millions of people – from high school students, coaches, parents, administrators, officials and fans – have been looking forward to the return of school-based sports and other activity programs. And the guidance document offered some hope that soon the light at the end of tunnel will not be the oncoming train we have felt for many weeks.
           

Now, state high school associations are developing timetables and protocols for return of activities in their states. And those guidelines will be different from state to state. This is not a one-size-fits-all plan. Depending on the specific circumstances of a state with respect to the containment of the virus, its progression through the various phases of returning to activities could be much different than another state. 
           

As the guidance document developed by the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee noted, our hope is that students can return to school-based athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done smartly. When it comes to education-based sports and performing arts within our nation’s schools, nothing is more important than the health and safety of the participants AND the individuals conducting those programs.
           

Some individuals have expressed concern that our guidance document is too cautious, noting that some non-school youth programs have already restarted in some areas.


In one state this past week, a non-school sports program was allowed to restart because the “data shows children are less affected by the coronavirus.” While the preponderance of evidence shows that to be true, plans in education-based activities will include also protection for adults who coach, officiate and administer those events, which may be seen as a more conservative approach.
           

Within high school sports, the drive of coaches and dreams of parents cannot run ahead of player safety. Last week, a successful high school football coach with three previous state titles was suspended for allegedly holding practices. And there have been reports of parents considering moving to another state with fewer COVID-19 cases to enhance the chance of their son playing football and earning a college scholarship.
           

The NFHS, through its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, took action in developing its Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities document. The various state high school associations are taking action in the coming weeks in developing plans for a return to activities at the state level.
           

Now, we would ask parents and other fans to take action – and that action is patience. The urge to return to normal is understandable, but the path back to where we were three months ago will take time, and that “time” will not happen at the expense of the safety and well-being of everyone involved in high school sports and performing arts programs.
Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is beginning her second year as executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the first female to head the national leadership organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities and the sixth full-time executive director of the NFHS, which celebrated its 100th year of service during the 2018-19 school year. She previously was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for seven years.
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