BROOKINGS – Student-athletes enrolled in schools this fall that have opted for online learning and no sports because of the pandemic may be able to open enroll to other schools. That opportunity became available after action taken Monday morning by the board of directors of the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
The board met via Zoom to decide on the best way to allow those students to compete this fall, waiving the portion of the SDHSAA constitution that deals with open enrollment.
SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos said the staff also considered other options that included a fifth year of eligibility or moving fall sports to the spring. Adding a fifth year of eligibility didn’t seem feasible, Swartos said.
“It disrupts the natural four-year cohort model,” Swartos said. “I think it opens a pretty big can of worms.”
As for moving fall sports to the spring, Swartos said that would depend on how the first weeks of the fall semester play out in regard to the spread of the virus.
“That needs to probably be a wholesale change,” Swartos said. “That’s when we would look at that.”
The board’s action Monday morning would allow students to open enroll to a new school for the fall sports season if they attend schools where athletics have been canceled due to county/community/tribal/federal ordinances or orders. At this point schools on Indian reservations are the ones choosing online learning and canceling fall sports.
Those schools include: Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, Tiospaye Topa, Takini, Marty, St. Francis, Todd County, Lakota Tech, Pine Ridge, Red Cloud, Little Wound, Crazy Horse, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Flandreau Indian School and Oelrichs.
Swartos explained that a student who seeks to open enroll would also complete a waiver that would call for the student to transfer back to their home school district once the fall sports season is complete.
The board’s action was essentially waiving a section of the transfer rules in the organization’s constitution for one sports season. The constitution calls for students who open enroll in a new district and then return to their original school district to sit out of sports competition for 45 days. The board’s action waived the 45-day rule as well so students going back to their home districts would immediately be eligible for the winter sports season.
“Most of the schools involved in this have been supportive of this concept,” Swartos said.