District 3 will follow PIAA lead and will require mask-exemption forms for playoffs

The (Carlisle) Sentinel (TNS)
Northeastern's Aleyah Starkes, right, looks to get around York Suburban's Alyssa Dougherty during girls' basketball action at York Suburban High School in Spring Garden Township, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. York Suburban would win the game 37-33. Dawn J. Sagert photo

District 3 outlined more details Thursday afternoon for its basketball championships that are two weeks away.

The board of directors met via Zoom a day after the latest PIAA board meeting and went over mask policies and attendance requirements for the tournament.

District 3 is adopting the mask exemption form the PIAA unveiled this week for all rounds of the district tournaments for basketball and wrestling. The difference: Dave Bitting, the District 3 basketball committee chair, will send the form to all potential basketball playoff teams Friday and is requiring the forms be filled out with any mask-exempt players by next week.

Bitting's reasoning is to give school districts, particularly those whose school boards will not allow teams or wrestlers to compete against unmasked opponents, time to see the information and make decisions regarding whether they will allow their teams to compete.

The four major District 3 leagues — the Mid-Penn Conference, York-Adams League, Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association and Lancaster-Lebanon League — already require all athletes wear masks during games, in keeping with the Department of Health mask mandate.

"I can't speak for the other schools," Bitting said. "I do know there are school boards who have made the decision they will not play competitors who are not wearing masks."

Bitting and District 3 would not speculate on how many schools, if any, might forfeit a postseason game because of their mask policies not allowing them to compete against even a single unmasked player.

"Hopefully it's not an issue, and hopefully we don't have any forfeits," said Doug Bohannon, District 3 chairman. "The key is we get that information to them in plenty of time so they can make the best decision for their school."

The PIAA isn't requiring mask forms be filed that quickly before states, instead saying schools must present them on-site prior to the game. District 3 wants to have those forms a week before the first round begins.

Bitting said District 3 will follow the enforcement guidelines the PIAA laid out Wednesday, which requires that game managers or athletic directors enforce mask policies during games, with the potential for team discipline for the 2021-22 season if a team repeatedly violates or ignores the mask rules of the contest. The PIAA has appeared hesitant to give ADs the authority to suspend a contest in the middle of play because of mask violations.

Spectator policies: District 3 also announced spectator policies for the basketball postseason. (District swimming and wrestling championships will have livestreaming options but no spectators due to COVID-19 capacity limitations set by Gov. Tom Wolf's pandemic orders.)

District 3 is asking host schools — the team with the higher seed in the matchup — to allow a minimum of 20 paid fans so players from each team can have "at least one parent" in attendance for what may be their final game of the season, or their career. There are no consolation playoff games this season because of the pandemic.

If a school cannot accommodate 20 spectators — District 3 is limiting teams to a traveling party of 20 people, including coaches, trainers and athletes — because of capacity limits, District 3 will allow that school to find a neutral site. If a neutral site can't be found, the lower-seeded team will be given the option to host the game. If that team also can't host because of capacity limits, District 3 will find a neutral site.

Swim change: One more postseason change was announced during the meeting. District 3 is increasing the number of qualifiers it will allow in each race for the Class 3-A swimming championships from 12 to 16. The number had been cut from 32 because of capacity limitations — the PIAA championships field is also cut in half this year — but District 3 reexamined the 12-qualifier number after a litany of complaints and a closer look at Cumberland Valley High School's social distancing plans and determined it could allow four more qualifiers.

Class 2-A will remain at 12 qualifiers.

Other notes

►District 3 wrestling chair Greg Goldthorp said the district will know Friday if any wrestlers competing in the individual sectional championships this weekend missed practice because of Thursday's snow storm. If any do in one or more sectionals, that wrestler and all wrestlers in their section will be granted an additional 2-pound allowance for weigh-ins.

►Bohannon said he's heard from multiple people in District 3 who want to keep a 10-game regular season for football. The PIAA is floating a schedule change that will likely go into effect for the 2021-22 season. Possible changes on the table are starting the season earlier, shrinking the regular season, shrinking the postseason field and ending before Thanksgiving weekend.