Use of school grounds for youth athletics in the county will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Starting May 26, non-contact or limited contact sports leagues are permitted to operate in Ohio if these leagues can meet required safety protocols. In one of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conferences last week, a question was asked whether school facilities could be utilized for youth sports. Under orders from Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, school facilities are closed through the end of June.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the order specifically closes school buildings, not grounds.

“Much of this will be open to the local community’s decision,” Husted said. “We are not forcing them to open anything in this. We are allowing them to do so.”

Henry County Health Commissioner Mark Adams said they were informed that local health departments will be able to assess the order to determine if they can safely open the grounds for those types of event.

Adams said if schools are interested in opening their grounds for youth athletics they can contact the health department with a plan on how they would organize it safely.

“A school field is no different than a park field, so it really comes down to the school’s liability policy,” he said, adding health orders fall under the same rules that coaches and officials are under regarding protecting children’s health and safety while playing. “It’s not that we’ve suggested that they stay closed, we haven’t done that. We’ve suggested that they really put together a plan to ensure there’s not some sort of mass gathering.”

Adams said this is still in the planning phase and Holgate Local Schools and the City of Napoleon have contacted the department for more information. In addition, Adams said the health commissioners in surrounding health districts are also talking about the matter, but he noted fields can be constructed differently so what one works for one might not work for another.

“We’re just looking at some way that you don’t huddle people together, so that would be your bleachers, where you’d have kids together in a dugout — so how do you keep them safe?” he asked. “If schools or any organization can come to me and say, ‘This is how we want to do it safely,’ I’m going to try to help them do it as safely as possible rather than just saying ‘no.’”

Adams added community support is also an important thing to consider, including whether individuals will follow plans and health orders and what happens if they aren’t followed.

“The leagues would have to be able to iterate to those coaches that the ump can throw them out. And if the ump doesn’t throw them out, the police get called just like if it’s an unruly parent ... and then they have to leave,” he said, adding those are existing policies. “If it gets to be a madhouse because somebody wants to be who they want to be and not care about anybody else, the league has to be able to stand up and say, ‘No, this is for the kids, not for you.’

“... It’s about the kids. It’s about them playing and getting some enjoyment,” he added.

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