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The Montana High School Association has left decisions about guidelines and cancelling sports up to each school.

Sports are back and starting up this fall, but even then, there is the fear and the chance of THAT happening.

You know, sports getting cancelled.

There is still that chance, but there is some relief for people when it comes to how sports would get cancelled.

It is very similar to how the Montana High School Association (MHSA) administered its guidelines at the beginning of August.

The guidelines they released were general for all sports and schools, but ultimately, they let each school and local health department determine their own guidelines as well.

With that comes the decision to cancel or postpone sports; it is a school-by-school/local decision.

Mark Beckman, executive director of the MHSA, said in an interview with the Sidney Herald that there is no magic number or point at which the MHSA would cancel sports for the whole state of Montana. Instead, each school carries the weight of that decision.

For example, if Sidney Public Schools does not have any cases (especially if Richland County at large has no or few cases), it would be safe for them to keep playing. Say, though, that a school in Sidney’s conference has too many cases of COVID-19 and decides they cannot play, that would not hinder Sidney’s season.

Sidney and the other conference teams would go on playing; it would just be that the school with the cases cannot play.

This is the epitome of the MHSA’s approach to sports this fall, as they have let the schools, along with their local health departments, make these important decisions of their own accord.

Myssie Sanders, athletic director for Savage Public Schools, said in an interview that Beckman mentioned there is an interesting divide between eastern and western Montana: In rural, eastern Montana, there are not as many cases of COVID-19 as there are in western Montana.

Sanders said Beckman commented that he was caught up in dealing with schools in eastern Montana that want to and can play, and schools in western Montana where they cannot necessarily play due to a high volume of COVID-19 cases.

Beckman said that some of the larger, Class AA schools had trouble with being able to abide by the guidelines because they have large numbers of athletes, but there were only a certain number of people allowed on the field (for football).

Even so, that issue or other issues that would arise for those schools would have no bearing on smaller schools because the MHSA left the decision of having to cancel events up to each school.

In creating its guidelines, the MHSA looked at what neighboring states put in their guidelines, which was important to do, Beckman said. He added that since the neighboring states are similar to Montana, looking at their guidelines was a good place to check for reference.

The important thing, Beckman said, was that the MHSA tried to be consistent for the whole state.

It was hard to be consistent for the whole state, since different areas are experiencing different levels of the pandemic, but the MHSA did its best to give guidance, while allowing each school to do what they need to as well, he said.

Creating the guidelines was difficult to do, since there is no playbook or previous experience to look at for reference, Beckman added.

He said he and the MHSA are confident that they gathered all the information they needed and put their best foot forward for their guidelines.

If there are any changes that need to be made to the guidelines, those will come after September 15, when the MHSA will evaluate the situation with sports throughout the state, Beckman said.

For now, though, any worry about all sports getting cancelled in Montana should be put to rest because even if some schools have to stop playing, others will theoretically keep going as long as they are able.

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