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Pinellas, Pasco counties set to re-open campuses for student-athletes

The announcement of voluntary workouts signals hope for a local fall prep sports season.
Boca Ciega wide receiver Dontre Hibbert (14) runs for a touchdown during the second half at Dixie Hollins last October. Hopes for a local prep football season spiked modestly Monday when Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said campuses will re-open for voluntary workouts for student-athletes in fall sports starting June 15.
Boca Ciega wide receiver Dontre Hibbert (14) runs for a touchdown during the second half at Dixie Hollins last October. Hopes for a local prep football season spiked modestly Monday when Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said campuses will re-open for voluntary workouts for student-athletes in fall sports starting June 15. [ Times (2019) ]
Published Jun. 2, 2020|Updated Jun. 2, 2020

At least two bay area school districts will allow student-athletes back on campus in the next month, offering the latest glimmer of hope for a local fall sports season.

Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett confirmed Monday evening that fall sports athletes at his public schools may return to campus for voluntary conditioning workouts starting June 15. Pasco student-athletes in all sports may return for voluntary conditioning and workouts starting July 1, athletic director Matt Wicks confirmed in a text message.

The Hillsborough district’s official athletics twitter account indicated Monday that it is not ready to announce a formal return-to-campus plan yet, reiterating all activities remain canceled until at least June 15.

The announcements come after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated on a Friday podcast that Floridians “should absolutely assume a full high school football season.”

For now, the season’s first football practice date (non-contact) in Florida is set for July 27.

Related: Careers without closure: Tampa Bay seniors reflect on their final prep season

Bennett said the initial phase of Pinellas’ reopening will be limited to outdoor conditioning, with gyms and weight rooms remaining closed. No more than 30 athletes will be allowed on campus at a time, with athletes split in groups of 10 including a coach.

Students won’t have their temperatures taken as they arrive on campus, but will be “screened” with a series of questions and must wear a mask as they enter and exit. Coaches will document the answers to the screening questions each day.

“Fall sports are gonna be the priority for the scheduling because they’re gonna start (their seasons) first,” Bennett said. “The other sports have a little more time to get back in shape.”

Bennett said he’ll urge his athletic administrators at each school to avoid the “heat of the day” and opt for morning or early-evening workouts.

“A lot of the kids are coming off the couch," he said. "So it’ll be just conditioning, stretching, cardio, sprinting a little bit, just to get ’em started back to work with the coaches.”

Related: When schools reopen, will prep football teams have enough time to prepare?

If the initial phase goes smoothly, Bennett said the district will explore moving to a second phase — possibly including weight room and gym work, and more athletes on campus at one time — in early July.

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