Two big rulings were announced Thursday, July 23, that will have an impact on the fall sports schedule for the 2020-21 school year.

Explaining that the main priority was to have students in the classroom for in-person instruction, Archdiocese of Milwaukee Assistant Superintendent Bruce Varick announced in an email to school presidents that the decision has been made to cancel the fall sports season for elementary schools in the archdiocese. Sports affected by the decision include cross country, soccer, volleyball and football.

“All recognize and value the importance that athletic and extracurricular opportunities bring to the educational experience and development of youth, but understand the priority is to have students in the classroom,” Varick wrote in his announcement.

“It is our highest priority for the upcoming school year for our Catholic schools to be open for on-site, in-person student instruction and learning, five days per week if at all possible. In light of the priority to keep schools open, a secondary question emerged that needed to be answered: What is the benefit, and the risks, to our students and schools if athletics proceed given the current circumstances?”

On the other hand, the same morning, the WIAA, which oversees high school athletics in the state, announced a delay to the fall sports season. Sports termed “low-risk,” such as girls golf, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming, will begin Aug. 17. “High-risk” sports such as football, boys and girls volleyball, and boys soccer, will begin Sept. 7.

The WIAA made clear in its announcement that the beginning date is when equipment hand-outs and practices can begin, as long as schools are abiding by the protocols and decisions set out by their conferences and local health officials. Dates for the beginning of competition have not been announced yet.

In addition to elementary school sports, Varick announced in his email that the Office of Youth Evangelization has decided to cancel the CYM volleyball season this fall.

A decision on elementary school winter sports will be made by Oct. 1. Spring sports will be assessed at a later time. The athletic advisory board will maintain the flexibility to reconfigure sport seasons and student participation guidelines based on current events at the time a decision is necessary.

“We recognize this recommendation will disappoint most, if not all, of our students who are looking forward to returning to school and putting on their school colors to compete,” Varick’s email said. “We recognize this recommendation will also disappoint, and in some cases anger, adults in our Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We ask all to remember that the priority of the athletic advisory board and all other concerned parties is to do its part to help keep our Catholic schools open for in-person student instruction and learning.”