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Key dates for prep sports expected to be announced next week

Yap: Vaccinations could be big factor in determining if fall season starts as usual

The tentative schedules for sports start dates and state tournaments for the 2021-22 school year will be released Monday on the Hawaii High School Athletic Association website, Maui Interscholastic League president Jamie Yap said after attending two key virtual meetings on Thursday.

“It’ll be all-encompassing, it should have the state playoff dates and may have the start dates in there,” Yap said following the HHSAA executive board meeting Thursday afternoon.

Yap, the Maui High School principal who in the morning was part of the final session of the Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association convention, said that the workings of getting sports started on a traditional timeline in the fall is underway, with HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun working with the state government.

“Chris Chun is working with the lieutenant governor (Dr. Josh Green). Not all of the sports are going to be listed, but most of the sports will be listed,” Yap said. “As far as fans in the stands, that’s going to be up to each league to determine when they get closer to the start dates and competition dates.”

The MIL athletic directors have a Monday meeting set to iron out tentative schedules after the HHSAA reveals its calendar.

“I think everybody in the room would prefer to have the traditional start dates,” Yap said. “Everybody is hoping to work towards that direction, including the lieutenant governor. What may cause this to be pushed back is when the governor decides if we reach a level where it’s safe to play — that might get lowered from that 70 percent vaccination (rate).”

Yap added, “the schools or leagues may have a pass versus the rest of the community, so we’re hoping we can get that agreement, but that’s not going to come until July.”

Yap said that Green is fighting behind the scenes for prep sports to begin on time across the state.

“The governor said full play, everybody can go back to normal, at 70 percent vaccination (rate),” Yap said. “And if we don’t reach that in time … the lieutenant governor is going to fight for us to lower that percentage for high school sports to begin competition, which may include football and wrestling.”

As of Thursday, 54 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health.

“I do think we are on track,” Gov. David Ige said Thursday. “We are making good progress.”

“It’s all wait and see,” Yap said. “I think the real goal is to get more people vaccinated — so that is critical for sports to begin irregardless.”

Yap said that vaccinations can’t be required to play high school sports in the state.

“That cannot happen,” Yap said. “It’s going to be on each individual and I’m sure there’s going to be other protocols in place for athletics, but it looks like it’ll be up to the individual. We’re going to be working with the Department of Health versus working with the Department of Education and that might be helpful to us in our league because our league is a mixed league with DOE and private schools.”

The bottom line for Yap — after more than four hours on Zoom on Thursday — is optimism and the hope that traditional start dates in the fall will be in place when DOE students return to school Aug. 3.

“I think the calendars are going to reflect that, and I think that is the direction everyone is working towards,” Yap said. “Everybody is crossing their fingers that we can get to that place where we can have more people vaccinated. Sounds like that is the direction from the governor and if we fall short we may be looking for an exception to that and I’m hoping that that can happen — everybody wants sports to happen. … Everybody is working hard to make that happen and set up schedules like we did in the past.”

Yap added that there is no specific date for the 70 percent vaccination threshold to be met, but the plan for athletics is tentatively moving forward.

“We want to start at a certain time with fall practices and we want to start with competition dates so we will have that all on the calendar, but we may not meet the vaccination rate that the governor has proposed,” Yap said. “So, we’re hoping that we can get there and if we don’t then maybe we’ll be looking for an exception for athletics.”

Yap said that the one thing the community can do to help move things along is get vaccinated or encourage those who have not been vaccinated to do so.

“Get vaccinated,” he said. “I think for everybody’s own safety and well-being. … I can only say I got vaccinated, I encourage others to. It’s not a force to or have to, nobody has to do it, but right now I can only profess that I believe in it and I would hope that more people get vaccinated. Think about it as a family decision because it affects their family and others, so I’m hoping more people will get involved.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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