Marching band national guidelines offered to help units march forward into school season

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Bands practice in the heat

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (WOWK) – For tens of thousands of students in marching bands in high schools and colleges, things will be very different for halftime and contest shows this year while some may not participate at all.

New guidelines have been set out by the Indianapolis-based National Federation of State High School Associations so bands have an over-arching set of ideas of how to proceed. However, state association, state or county health department or local school district rules could supersede any of these guidelines.

St. Albans H.S. WV Marching Band performs, Fall 2019 – staff photo Spencer Adkins

Even though these suggested plans are new, they could be changed again even in the near future. A new scientific study is being released , with details expected Monday, that will show how aerosols are emitted by people who play woodwinds or brass instruments. The Thursday guidelines are being sent to state associations that oversee school activities such as sports or band and are sent as a suggestion to those states on how to operate.

Cabell Midland HS WV Marching Band, Fall 2018 – Staff photo Spencer Adkins

The plan offered on Thursday, July 9 suggests marching bands look at three phases of getting back to rehearsal and performance.

Highlights from the guideline document – with dates to be determined locally and in conjunction with local officials:

Phase 1:

  • No more than 10 people in a group indoors or outdoors.
  • Maintain social distancing of 6 foot personal space.
  • Rehearse outdoors only and in stand-still fashion, with 6 foot spacing intervals in pods of 10 or fewer people who should always be grouped together to reduce exposure.
  • 4 foot by 3 foot storage space for a student’s instruments and gear.
  • Temperature screenings and health surveys for anyone involved.

Phase 2:

  • No more than 10 people indoors at a rehearsal with up to 50 people allowed outside.
  • Maintain social distancing with stand-still rehearsal and 6 foot spacing intervals.
  • Indoor practices are allowed for inclement weather but 10 foot spacing should be maintained, drastically reducing number of people allowed per the space.
  • Temperature screenings and health surveys for anyone involved.

Phase 3:

  • No person with cold or fever symptoms in past 24 hours allowed.
  • Gatherings of 50 people or less allowed indoors or outdoors.
  • All involved need to maintain 3 to 6 foot spacing anywhere during the activity.
Philip Barbour HS WV Marching Band in Fall 2018 Staff Photo from Spencer Adkins

As for fall band competitions, there are some states that have already made changes to their plans while many events are in a holding pattern before making any final decisions until more information is known or they receive more guidelines from their local school district.

Areas of concern outlined in the NFHS document when it comes to contests include transportation, how to maintain social distancing and who should be allowed to attend any events that are held.

The governing body over marching band in West Virginia, the WVSSAC, already announced Friday July 10 that band camps would be cancelled for the summer to avoid possible COVID-19 transmission but did allow for small group instruction in groups of 10 students or fewer.

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