Perkiomen preps ‘in-house’ athletics for fall season; Hill cancels fall interscholastic competition

Another area school has decided to not compete in inter-school sports for the fall 2020 season.

That’s not to say the local prep school’s fall athletes will be idle at the start of the upcoming school year.

Perkiomen School, prompted by a decision from the Penn-Jersey Athletic Association to cancel all sports through Jan. 1, 2021, will be taking an alternative course of action. The plan was confirmed Saturday by Perkiomen athletic director/baseball head coach Ken Baker.

“Perk is going to an in-house athletic program,” Baker explained. “We will run our normal fall sports and activities, with the addition of baseball and basketball.”

Short of not doing anything this fall, Perkiomen’s interscholastic sports programs will be active in the possible absence of competition with other schools.

“Each program will be working on drills and techniques for their sport,” Baker said. “We haven’t totally ruled out having competition, but if we do have an opportunity later, it will be carefully looked at by the sport and the opponent.

“At this point, we are moving forward without any competition. Each sport will also try to get recruiting video for juniors and seniors to help with their process.”

The school fields teams in seven sports during the fall season: Boys and girls cross country, co-ed golf, football, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball. There are five junior-varsity programs — golf, boys soccer (two), girls tennis and volleyball — in addition to boys and girls soccer at the middle-school level.

Perkiomen was looking to its first year of competition as a member of the PJAA, the association having recently merged with the Tri-County League to form an organization comprised of 22 schools with various numbers of teams participating in sports. Now, its debut with Penn-Jersey will be delayed until the next calendar year.

“The PJAA has decided to postpone all league-sanctioned athletic competitions for fall 2020, which includes post-season, awards, and all-star competitions,” association president Joe Spera said in a letter disseminated to the member schools. “This was a difficult decision, but the health and safety of our communities was at the forefront of our discussions.

“Our plan is to resume league competition no earlier than January 2021 and to provide an interscholastic athletics experience for students in all sports by developing three abbreviated seasons during the remainder of the school year. Over the next few weeks, PJAA members will meet to explore the options for the three abbreviated season model to ensure all league sports will be played beginning in January 2021. Our Return-to-Play plan will include a robust set of expectations from our school communities to ensure that our student athletes, coaches, officials, staff, and spectators are safe. We will be following all local, state and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations to ensure a successful, safe return.”

At the same time, Spera noted the league’s members will be working up to that point for the benefit of students who would normally have played sports in the fall.

“We will continue, as PJAA athletic directors, to meet regularly this fall to collaborate across our schools to best support our students, our programs, and our communities,” he said.

The announcement comes at the same time another prep school in the region has called off its fall sports season.

The Hill School posted a letter to its website outlining its plan for the start of the 2020-21 school year in terms of athletic endeavors.

“With our highest priority being the health and safety of the entire Hill community and sustaining in-person learning on campus,” the letter read, “The Hill School has cancelled interscholastic athletic competition for the fall 2020 season. We are committed to supporting team-based athletics, which are essential to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our students. However, in light of the current circumstances, we concluded that suspending interscholastic athletics competition – thereby minimizing exposure of our community members to external environments – allows us the best chance to orchestrate a safe campus reopening and maintain healthy, in-person learning throughout the Autumn Session.

“Fall teams still will be permitted to practice in varying group sizes, dependent upon Hill’s current Campus Wellness Level, to further each student-athlete’s individual development,” the letter went on. “Students who wish instead to enroll in one of several existing or new offerings in the areas of general fitness, recreational sports, or non-athletic co-curricular activities may do so.  Those who would like to remain enrolled in and train for their fall sport will be challenged daily at the highest level to reach their full potential. More detailed updates for the Autumn Session co-curricular program will be shared with our students in the coming days.”

The letter also noted the school’s plans for the winter and spring seasons remain as scheduled, for the time being.

“We will determine each season’s status as it approaches, taking into consideration all health and safety factors at that point in time,” the letter said.

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