by Chris Hartley, director of athletics
PLEASE NOTE: An update reversing this decision for Upper School athletics was made on Jan. 27. Please find the new article here. Decisions about Middle School athletics have not changed.
The following is an email sent from Director of Athletics Chris Hartley to the Lakeside School community on Jan. 14, 2021.
Good afternoon, Lakeside Community!
I hope that this email finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. I write to you today with information about Lakeside Athletics, specifically how we will be managing new information coming from Governor Inslee's office, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), and the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).
The governor's office has created a new plan to address safety issues associated with the pandemic. It is a two-phased plan that is significantly different than the previous plan. Inslee's Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery has shifted the approach to allowing youth sports to practice and compete. His new plan prompted the WIAA and CYO to rework their approaches to sports offerings for the remainder of the school year.
The Roadmap to Recovery divides the state into eight regions. Lakeside School, which is in King County, is in the Puget Sound region, along with Pierce and Snohomish counties. Each phase of the Roadmap to Recovery offers guidelines for how sports and other activities should be conducted, shown in the chart below. Please note: the state has classified the following sports as low-, moderate-, or high-risk sports:
- LOW-RISK SPORTS: Cross Country, Golf, Swim & Dive, Tennis, Track & Field
- MODERATE-RISK SPORTS: Baseball, Crew, Lacrosse, Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball
- HIGH-RISK SPORTS: Basketball, Football, Wrestling
As you can see, there are significant limits to what can happen in Phase 1. There are specific metrics used to move between phases. These are outlined in the governor's Roadmap to Recovery, which I outline below.
A region’s phase will be determined by the Department of Health (DOH) in response to four metric requirements. The final metrics for regions will be calculated on Friday, January 8 and will be effective January 11. To go forward from Phase 1 to Phase 2, regions must meet all four metrics:
- Decreasing trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population (decrease >10%)
- Decreasing trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population (decrease >10%)
- ICU occupancy (total — COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90%
- COVID-19 test positivity rate of <10%
To remain in Phase 2, regions must meet at least 3 metrics:
- Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population
- Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population
- ICU occupancy (total — COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90%
- COVID-19 test positivity rate of <10%.
Regions that fail to meet two or more of the above metrics will be moved back to Phase 1. The metrics for each region will be updated on the Risk Assessment Dashboard every Friday. Dependent on a region’s metrics, DOH will move into a new phase — forward or backward — the following Monday.
From an athletics standpoint, there is a great deal of concern about the potential of jumping back and forth between phases one and two with very little notice. So, the WIAA is working closely with the governor's office to create a plan that would provide a more stable transition between phases.
As of the January 8 report, the Puget Sound region had three favorable metrics: a decrease of more than 10% in the two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K; an ICU occupancy below 90%; and a test positivity rate less than 10%.
With all this new information available, the Metro League and the CYO made decisions about what would happen with competitive sports from now until the end of the school year. The next section highlights the decisions made for those organizations. After that information, you will learn what Lakeside's approach to athletics will be.
METRO LEAGUE: On Tuesday, January 12, the leadership of the Metro League announced that it was planning to have two seasons between February 22 and June 12. Basically, the first season is for the sports traditionally occupying the fall season. The second season will be all the winter and spring sports combined.
It is important to remember that these schedules are only valid if the Puget Sound region is in, and remains in, Phase 2. If the region is in Phase 1, schedules will need to be changed. Also, the guidelines for Seattle's indoor pools need to be explored and potentially changed before high school teams can use them.
There are ongoing conversations with the Metro League, the WIAA, and the governor's office that could result in changes to some of the governor's guidelines, the WIAA's mandates, and the Metro League's approach to the seasons. To get the most current information, please visit the WIAA's COVID-19 Planning webpage.
CYO: On Jan. 13, the leadership of the CYO informed its membership that the girls volleyball season is canceled. There is a virtual track season planned for May 8 through June 5, and we are awaiting more information on how the CYO plans to structure that program in order to decide if we will participate.
GIVEN ALL OF THIS INFORMATION, WHAT WILL LAKESIDE'S APPROACH TO ATHLETICS BE?
Upper School Athletics:
(Please note that specifics about the structure of practices will be outlined in far greater detail over the next few weeks.)
Beginning March 1, athletes who participate in the sports being offered in Season 1 of the Metro League's schedule will begin practices. Only those students who are on campus for in-person classes can participate in practices. The week of March 1-5 will have freshmen and sophomores practicing. Juniors and seniors will have their first practices during the week of March 8-12.
If crew, lacrosse, and Ultimate seasons begin during this time, athletes will be able to practice as outlined above.
Lakeside teams will not be permitted to compete against other teams in Season 1.
As we approach the start of Season 2, the school leadership will revisit these restrictions.
Middle School Athletics:
Because the CYO has canceled volleyball and is only offering a virtual track season, there will not be official spring practices for sports organized by the CYO at the Middle School.
We will not be able to offer crew to our 8th graders this spring because the boathouse will be used by our Upper School athletes.
Lakeside will not offer lacrosse this spring because our participation numbers are too low when adjusting for grade-specific cohorts. Similar to the structure of Upper School practices, practices at the Middle School would have to be grade-specific. We would need a 5th-grade pod and a 7th-grade pod one week and 6th- and 8th-grade pods the next.
There is an opportunity for interested students to get involved with lacrosse this spring. We are working with local youth lacrosse club programs so that interested athletes can register with them. We encourage all students who want to participate in lacrosse to register for a club program. Lakeside will offer financial assistance and equipment for families if needed. More information about this process will be communicated within the next two weeks.
We are working on plans to offer some afterschool activities and will be sharing those plans as we approach March.
WHY ARE WE LIMITING PARTICIPATION AND PROHIBITING COMPEITION AT THIS TIME?
When Lakeside closed its campus on March 9, 2020 the leadership of the school set the goal of getting our students back on campus safely as soon as it was possible. Our students' academic success is the main goal of a Lakeside education. That continues to be our top goal.
There are amazing programs at Lakeside that are important to students and hallmarks of the Lakeside experience. Without a doubt, athletics is one of those. And, there are others; our outdoor programs, theatre program, global programs, and service learning programs add to the growth of all of our students outside of the classroom. But, none of these programs outweighs our students' academic experience, and we are committed to keeping our campus open for academics.
We are taking a conservative approach to athletics at this time to minimize the risk of having positive tests that would require the school to quarantine community members or shut down a campus.
Our testing protocol and contact tracing are key components to decreasing the chances of positive tests. Given that no other school is testing, it does not make sense to compete against other schools that might have asymptomatic people who have COVID.
The Metro League is composed of 11 public schools and six private schools. The league's decision was based on what is best for the public schools. Seattle Public Schools are not open for in-person learning for high school students and won't be for months, if at all. Therefore, they do not have to worry about losing in-person learning. We do not have that luxury.
First, I want to acknowledge how difficult it has been to be a student-athlete for the last ten months. As someone who finds joy and meaning in my work as a coach, I feel loss, sadness, and a disconnect because our athletics facilities have been empty. I have tried to imagine how I would be feeling if this were happening to me when I was in high school. My classes were important to me, but I lived for practices and competitions. My identity, friendships, and contentment were built around my participation in athletics. So, the decisions that we have made to cancel or alter athletics participation have weighed heavily on me, and still do.
Athletics staff, program heads, and head varsity coaches have been working behind the scenes to create plans to bring our student-athletes on campus for training for months. I have been meeting with the school leadership weekly to talk about what we think we can accomplish and to advocate for athletics participation. I am thankful for the incredible work the members of the athletics department have accomplished. And I am in full agreement with the decisions that were made in consultation with the leadership of the school. I also know that some of you will be disappointed with our approach.
There will be more communications from the athletics offices, program heads, and head coaches about next steps and preparation for teams to start practicing in person.
On Thursday, February 11 at 8 am, I will be the lead panelist for the Parent/Guardian webinar. This will be open to all parents and guardians, Upper School and Middle School.
If you have pressing questions or want to share anything with me, please reach out.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your ongoing support of Lakeside and Lakeside Athletics in these challenging times.
Follow Lakeside Athletics on Twitter at @LakesideLions.