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August 10, 2020

Philly Public League suspends high school sports in the city until 2021

Decision follows recommendation from Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf

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All Philadelphia public school sports competitions have been suspended until Jan. 1, 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Philly Public League president James Patrick Lynch said Monday.

All high school sports at Philadelphia public schools are suspended through the end of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a move in accordance with the recommendation from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf that impacts schools' fall and winter sports seasons.

Philadelphia Public League president James Patrick Lynch informed schools on Monday that fall sports — including football, field hockey, soccer, cross country, and girls' tennis — will not proceed during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, at this time, regardless of the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Last week the PIAA delayed the date when teams could begin mandatory practices but still planned to move forward with a fall sports season. The Philadelphia Public League governs sports played by schools within the School District of Philadelphia.

The School District of Philadelphia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

"We recognize the important role that interscholastic athletics play both on and off the field, and in the lives of our student-athletes, coaches and our school communities," Lynch said in a statement released Monday, "but it is the health safety of those groups and their families that are paramount to our district."

The Public League would revisit this decision if safe return to play is determined. It was not said whether fall sports seasons could be moved to the spring, as some schools have opted to do.

PIAA officials said they disagreed with the Wolf administration's call to suspend high school sports until Jan. 1. In July, the PIAA had issued guidelines for resuming school sports and competition, but then last week delayed that timeline by two weeks, pending further discussion.

The PIAA warned of a "potential negative impact on students" if local athletics administrators choose to cancel the fall season.

Philadelphia schools initially had planned to start classes this school year with a hybrid model that included both in-person instruction and online learning. The school district later decided to delay the return of in-person classes until at least mid-November.

Across the country, states are reporting spikes in COVID-19 cases among children during the last two weeks of July, fueling more concern about their return to schools in August and September.

The Wolf administration's recommendation to delay high school sports in Pennsylvania is not mandatory. It will be up to individual school districts and athletic conferences whether competitions among fall sports programs will take place.

The Philadelphia Catholic League, which delayed the start of fall athletics last week, still appears on track to hold sports this year.

The PIAA board is scheduled reconvene on Aug. 21 when it will update its guidelines and reevaluate the potential for fall sports in 2020.