On May 29, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 149 (“EO 149”) which, in part, allows the resumption of organized sports under certain conditions. Specifically, EO 149 provides that, effective June 22, 2020, sporting activities that do not involve person-to-person contact (or individuals routinely interacting within six feet of one another) will be permitted in outdoor settings only, and will remain subject to whatever restrictions are in place at the time regarding the number of individuals who may gather outdoors. All other sporting activities remain prohibited in any setting. Additional health and safety standards will be imposed by the New Jersey Department of Health prior to June 22, 2020.
A clear understanding of the parameters of EO 149 is essential as New Jersey schools consider making plans for the summer training and tryout sessions that typically precede the fall sports season. Importantly, EO 149 provides that high school sporting activities under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (“NJSIAA”) may not resume until June 30, 2020, and will be subject to additional NJSIAA protocols.
In a statement released shortly after EO 149 was signed, NJSIAA called the order “a positive step” and reiterated that it had already established two task forces to develop protocols for the resumption of high school sports. NJSIAA’s COVID-19 Sports Advisory Task Force is comprised of several high school athletic directors from across the state who will focus on sports-specific recommendations. NJSIAA’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Task Force is comprised of officials from the New Jersey Department of Education, the New Jersey Department of Health, and physicians from NJSIAA’s own Medical Advisory Committee, who will recommend both general and sports-specific guidance aimed at permitting a safe return to high school athletics. NJSIAA will issue formal guidelines upon receipt of recommendations from both task forces and from the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Additional factors impacting a return to organized school sports in New Jersey include, but are not limited to, staffing and budgetary implications, locker room and equipment sharing policies, maintaining appropriate distancing on buses and other transportation to and from athletic events, school district insurance provisions, and the terms (particularly indemnification terms) of rental/usage contracts for any non-school facilities used by school sports organizations.
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At Scarinci Hollenbeck, our school law attorneys work tirelessly every day to guide New Jersey schools through the maze of ever-evolving guidelines and regulations impacting the delivery of education, special services, extracurricular activities, and employment issues during these unprecedented times. If you’d like to have a conversation with one of our school law attorneys, please contact me, Alyssa Weinstein, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.