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By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
High school football in Georgia will start two weeks later than usual due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a vote Monday by the Georgia High School Association.
The GHSA board voted unanimously to push first-week games back from Aug. 21 to Sept. 4. The season will still have 10 games and a five-round playoff.
Scheduling for pre-season conditioning remained unchanged and can start July 27. No other fall sports were delayed by the GHSA vote on Monday.
Some school districts like Atlanta Public Schools might have ditched fall sports entirely without a two-week delay for football, said GHSA Trustee Jasper Jewell.
The Cairo High School Syrupmakers are expected to host the Purple Hurricanes of Fitzgerald on Friday night, September 4 to open the 2020 football season, unless plans change.
Several rules are in place for high school football teams including prohibiting use of locker rooms, sanitizing helmets before and after workouts, drinking only from personal water bottles and reporting positive COVID-19 test results to the GHSA.
Parents, local school officials and public health experts in Georgia have roundly warned of safety risks involved in resuming classes for the 2020-21 school year without measures in place like options to start with online instructions, social distancing for in-person classes and the importance of masks.
The state Department of Education has issued guidelines and recommendations aimed at helping local school districts decide how to hold classes in the fall via a mix of regular in-person classes and online instruction options.
Classes switched to all-online instructions in March to close out the 2019-20 school year as the COVID-19 outbreak in Georgia took hold.
Professional and amateur sports – including high school teams – were given the green light by Gov. Brian Kemp last month to resume training and competitions so long as they followed self-imposed distancing and cleanliness rules.
Kemp has suggested he could move to shut down sports in the fall if enough Georgians do not voluntarily wear masks in public. He has opposed mandating masks in the state, going so far as to sue Atlanta officials last week to block the city’s recent masking requirement and reopening rollback.