It’s been nearly three weeks since officials closed New Jersey schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 year to curb the spread of COVID-19.

That effectively put an end to the spring sports season in 2020. Now the conversation turns to when high school sports in the Garden State can actually resume.

New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) executive committee president Mary Liv Ivans penned a letter Friday laying out that plan in detail. It’s all centered around having a fall sports season this year.

Ivans will chair the newly-formed NJSIAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Task Force, a collaboration of professionals tasked with the goal of making sports safe for New Jersey high school athletes this fall.

“The goal of the task force is to identify and implement both general and sports-specific modifications that will be required by NJSIAA member schools,” Ivans wrote. “In the short-term, our efforts will be focused on returning the fall athletes to their sports for the 2020 season.”

The formation of this new group comes only days after the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) released a 16-page guideline depicting how high school athletes can be kept safe when a return to sports is made.

The NJSIAA’s new task force will look to “identify and implement both general and sports-specific modifications that will be required by NJSIAA member schools,” wrote Ivans.

“The fewer cases there are today, the greater the likelihood we will play in the fall.  And as we navigate the next few months, it is important that we prepare to be flexible with a new normal. Of course, the timing of our return to school will ultimately be determined by the State of New Jersey. And, it’s important to keep in mind that going back to our school buildings won’t necessarily guarantee an immediate return of athletics. It’s possible that some sports will follow different schedules than others,” she continued.

The state athletic association announced members signed onto the task force. They are Kathy Whalen, NJ Department of Education; Dr. Lakota Kruse, medical director, NJ Department of Health, Division of Family Health Services; Dr. Jack Kripsak, chair of the NJSIAA Medical Advisory Committee; Dr. Damion Martins, team physician and director of Internal Medicine to the New York Jets and a member of the NFL COVID Taskforce; and Dr. Rob Franks, a team physician for USA wrestling and team consultant to the Philadelphia Phillies.

NJSIAA assistant director Tony Maselli will serve as the NJSIAA liaison.

“Many obstacles remain,” Ivans concluded. “Hard work, patience and flexibility will be required, and at times some may feel deflated. But I’m confident that together, we will help get our kids safely back in the game.”

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