Area high school athletic directors are hoping and planning for as normal a fall season as possible when games start next week.
Last fall, athletes and fans at Westerly, Chariho, Stonington and Wheeler played most sports but with a wealth of guidelines and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For now, this fall looks to be different than in 2020.
Fans will be welcome at most games, home and away, without any restrictions. .
"Right now, there will be no masks or social distancing," Stonington athletic director Bryan Morrone said. "The ECC is intending full spectator capacity. At this point, we are going to roll out as normal a fall as possible."
Fans, players, coaches and officials at volleyball games at Westerly, Chariho and Wheeler will be required to wear masks because those games are played indoors. Stonington does not have a volleyball team.
"For volleyball, we are going to pull the bleachers out on both sides of the gym and ask fans from the visiting team to sit on one side and have our fans on the other," Wheeler athletic director Ellen Turner said. "We also want them to set with family members and be six feet away from others."
Turner said some schools have smaller gyms that may not be able to accommodate visiting fans. Turner said the school uses apps to communicate that information to players and parents.
Athletic directors are looking forward to fans in the stands.
"I think it's important to recognize that our district as a whole has been very supportive of our program and that it continue without setbacks," Westerly athletic director Jamey Vetelino said. "I know from where I sit our coaches and players are overwhelmingly excited to see fans back in the stands.
"The single most important thing on our athletes' minds is will we have fans. It will be fun to see fans supporting our athletes."
Chariho athletic director Mike Sheils said the benefits are great for many.
"Hopefully, things go well. We are in good shape right now. It's good for our athletes, but it's also good for all our students to attend games," Shiels said. "It gives them an opportunity to socialize.
"When they come to our facilities, we want them to use common sense and even social distance outside. We want a lot of socialization, but do it in a responsible manner."
None of the athletic directors know what percentage of their student-athletes or coaches have been fully vaccinated.
"I don't have that number, but just from hearing people talk I am pretty sure the majority of our athletes and our coaches, for sure, are vaccinated, which is great," Shiels said.
Chariho will begin testing high school and middle school athletes weekly starting Sept. 13.
Vetelino said Westerly expects to have some type of testing program. Details will be worked out this week. Stonington and Wheeler will not have a testing program.
In Connecticut, if vaccinated athletes or coaches come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they will not have to be quarantined but will have to wear a mask until they test negative provided they are asymptomatic.
Those who are unvaccinated and asymptomatic will have to quarantine for 10 days with a negative test between days seven and 10. They can quarantine for 14 days without a test.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated students who have symptoms after a close contact must quarantine for 10 days with a negative test between days seven and 10. They can quarantine for 14 days without a test.
In Westerly, vaccinated individuals will not have to be quarantined, but those with symptoms should be tested before returning to their teams. For those who are unvaccinated, there is a seven-day quarantine unless they test positive after five days.
Chariho will handle positive tests or contact with those who test positive on a case-by-case basis, Shield said.
If games are postponed due to COVID-19 issues, they will be rescheduled if possible at all four schools. That may be difficult for football teams — most do not have openings on their schedule. Stonington does have a bye week in October. Chariho and Westerly do not have byes.
"The Principals Committee on Athletics may have to revisit the playoff scenario as the season moves along. Everything is in play. We did that last year with almost every sport," Shiels said.
Rhode Island teams will begin playing games on Tuesday while Connecticut starts on Thursday.