OMAHA – Spring sports are done. Senior years end incomplete.

Now the attention for the Nebraska School Activities Association turns to what’s possible for football and other fall high school sports at the start of the 2020-21 school year if the coronavirus pandemic lingers.

“I want to stay optimistic and hope everything is a go for August,” NSAA Executive Director Jay Bellar said Thursday. “I’m concerned because I just don’t know. I don’t have access to the experts some of these other guys do, but I know it’s going to take time.”

Gov. Ricketts issued a directive at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday that school buildings are to be closed and all extracurricular activities canceled through May 31. Bellar said he learned of that directive when someone forwarded to him around 9:15 p.m.

“So, yeah, I didn’t know any time sooner than you guys

For the first time, there will be no NSAA championships this school year for speech, journalism and music in activities, and soccer, track, baseball, boys golf and girls tennis in athletics.

A petition drive on Change.org to delay the sports championships until summer had more than 3,700 signatures by noon Thursday. Bellar said the NSAA decision is final. The NSAA board last month authorized Bellar’s staff to make coronavirus-related decisions.

“When we had a staff meeting this morning,” Bellar said, “we determined that with everything going on in the summer, and the plans that parents usually have and the other things that kids do, that starting something in June was just not something that we thought we could get done.”

Bellar was asked if the NSAA would consider pushing up the fall season to the summer, ahead of a possible second wave of the virus. He said such a move would have to involve the NSAA’s school membership as a whole.

“We’re going to do what we can for our membership to have any season,” he said. “It’s just like this one. We may have held on too long with optimistic hope but we wanted to continue to see if we could do something. It just became more and more apparent as time went on that we couldn’t do anything.”

Bellar said the NSAA’s annual Representative Assembly remains set for May 21 but the meeting might have to be done remotely. That group will consider adding bowling and girls wrestling to the lineup of NSAA sports.

“Schools are going to want to know about those and then they need to be able to prepare for them, too, if that’s the outcome we get,” he said.

Bellar is in his second year as executive director. He was an all-state basketball player at Walthill and a school superintendent at Battle Creek before joining the NSAA. He said he wished the ending to this school year could be different.

“Our concerns, our worries, are NSAA activities and what we can provide for kids, but it’s truly where we want to do what’s best for everybody in our state,” he said. “I think the governor and Matt Blomstedt (state education commissioner) have put endless hours in this decision. “We back that decision. We don’t like that we can’t have our activities but we understand why, because the safety of everybody is what we need to be talking about.”

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