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ILLINOIS (WAND) - The Illinois High School Association decided to loosen COVID-19 restrictions in a Monday board meeting. 

The changes include the removal of a two-game per week limit for winter, spring and summer sports, allowing schools to abide by normal IHSA season game limitations. In addition, the IHSA summer season can start two weeks earlier than initially allowed, with practices allowed to begin on April 19 and games starting on May 3. 

"We have preached that this school year will be fluid, and the changes made by the board today are a good example of that,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “When the IHSA’s initial Return To Activities guidelines were established, the limitation of two contests per week felt like a constraint that would help limit exposure. However, given how well our state is handling the pandemic, and the lack of setbacks in the fall sports we have conducted so far, there was a consensus that we could move forward with allowing schools to schedule winter, spring, and summer sports without further restrictions.”

The changes to the schedule for summer sports, which include baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer, lacrosse and boys tennis, promise some relief for high school programs, according to Anderson. 

“We understood that when the modified schedule for 2020-21 was released that the summer sport season coaches would take some umbrage with it,” said Anderson. “However, we also knew that summer was the season that we had the most time and flexibility to work with, so we preached patience. We are glad to be able to provide some relief by creating the option to start two weeks earlier.”

The organization also denied a request from Highland High School, which asked for an exemption from IHSA By-law 3.100. Highland wanted a 2020-21 exemption for volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball and softball, which the organization said would allow student-athletes to be part of a school team and non-school team at the same time. IHSA by-laws do not allow students to be part of school and non-school teams at the same time in the same sport, and Anderson said the IHSA ruled against Highland. 

“There was a lengthy and spirited discussion on if we should provide an exemption to this rule given the unprecedented nature of the school year,” said Anderson. “The Board understands both sides of the argument and has heard from passionate advocates for each scenario. Ultimately, concerns over safety and equity left them uncomfortable with providing an exemption to this rule. They understand it could lead to some difficult decisions between participating on a school or non-school team. Fundamentally, the nature and mission of the IHSA is to provide participation opportunities to all students. The Board agreed that if a student-athlete chooses to leave their school team for a non-school team, it simply creates an opportunity for another student to step in and fill that role.”

The IHSA is continuing to wait for a response from Gov. JB Pritzker after it requested taking back control of decisions related to resuming sports seasons. 

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