All Vermont fall sports officially began practice on Thursday, and the VPA sat down to discuss the upcoming school year.
No surprise, COVID protocols were among the most-discussed topics, and it seemed to be something schools are still trying to figure out. Currently, the Vermont Department of Health is advising schools to recommend masks indoors for the first ten instructional days of the school year, according to an August 4 memorandum. Following that period, masks should no longer be required if the vaccination rate is over 80% among eligible students and staff. The Department of Health added that masks should still be required for students younger than 12, since they are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
Outside of COVID, a hot topic at the media day was divisional re-alignment among Vermont schools. The number of students and athletic participation numbers are dropping across the state, and the VPA believes there may not be a need for Division 4 to exist anymore. New sports alignments will be decided this year for 2022-24, but wide-ranging school sizes has made the decision a difficult one.
“If you’re Craftsbury Academy and you’re playing at the top of Division 4, you may be playing someone who has five times as many students as you do,” VPA Associate Executive Director Bob Johnson said. “Trying to figure out the perfect alignment system when you’ve got schools with as few as 35 to 40 compared to schools who have 1200 is not an easy task.”
Johnson also said he would not be surprised to see more co-op programs begin to form throughout the state in order to make up for decreased participation, but that would also result in fewer programs.