VALLEY CITY, N.D. — North Dakota High School Activities Association executive director Matt Fetsch said Wednesday that mid-July is an important time frame for an on-time return for athletic competition next fall.

The NDHSAA likely needs to have a “return to competition” plan in place at that point with practices for fall sports slated to start in early August. Activities came to a halt last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s almost imperative that member schools know what’s going on at that point,” Fetsch said. “Right now the plan is for things to start on time. If circumstances change that, adjustments will be made accordingly.”

The NDHSAA Board of Directors met via video conference Wednesday and approved a report from the "Return to Competition Committee." Fetsch said extracurricular activities are going to align very closely to the state’s K-through-12 restart plan for next fall. Like last spring, in-person learning at member schools is a key piece for a return to athletic competition.

“The challenge is just the unknown, which has been the case since the middle of March,” Fetsch said. “It’s my first pandemic.”

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Boys soccer is the first fall sport to start with practices set to begin Aug. 3 and the first competition date slated for Aug. 14. Fetsch said the Board will meet again in mid-July (an exact date hasn’t been set yet) as the "Return to Competition Committee" puts together a more detailed plan for a restart.

“It should be a much clearer picture then and again that will correlate with return to education and what that’s going to look like,” Fetsch said. “Basically, it’s been informational up to this point and now as we get into the first part of July (the committee) will be coming more with recommendations for the Board of Directors.”

The "Return to Competition Committee" has 14 members, including Fetsch and Kirsten Baesler, the superintendent of the state Department of Public Instruction. There are also members from the North Dakota Department of Health and Governor’s Office.

“I think mid-July has been our ultimate goal,” Fetsch said. “We will see where the next few weeks take us.”