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The Illinois High School Association announced Wednesday it has approved its draft of the Stage 2 Return to Play guidelines for re-opening high school athletics in Illinois and has submitted the plan to the Illinois Department of Public Health for approval.

According to the proposal, approved by the IHSA on Monday and released Wednesday, “School districts should work with their local health departments on current restrictions in their area prior to beginning contact. Local school administration determines the permitted activities at their school. Prioritizing the health and safety of all students and staff must remain the focus of each IHSA member school.”

Stage 2 guidelines correspond with Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan that is scheduled to take effect June 26 if all the parameters for the coronavirus are met.

Stage 1 took effect June 5 with IDPH approval and allowed for basic conditioning in groups of 10 or fewer. As for Stage 2, it still will require screening of student-athletes, social distancing and cleaning of equipment, but they also will increase inside or outside gatherings up to 50 players, coaches and officials as long as they keep a minimum of 30 feet in between each group.

As for fans being allowed in the stands, schools can choose to bring them back at 20 percent capacity as long as they have their own designated area. Spectators are encouraged to bring their own chairs. Concession stands might open in line with restaurant workspace guidelines.

Additionally, Stage 2 will increase the daily participation threshold from three hours to five hours as well as allow athletes access to locker rooms if need be.

To help prevent the spreading germs, the IHSA also said no handshakes, high fives, fist bumps or other forms of celebratory contact will be permitted.

On top of the new changes, schools must continue to maintain a daily record of student-athletes’ participation and their symptoms. They also have to take any athlete’s temperature and ask screening questions before the start of any practices.

Coaches are encouraged to use a staged approach to build back up to full summer contact activity and competitions. Local districts should work with their health departments and local school officials to make decisions about team travel to summer competitions.

Lastly, athletes, officials, coaches, volunteers and spectators can choose whether or not they want to wear a mask, as they are not required.

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