MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) — The Florida High School Athletic Association on Friday approved allowing schools to start fall sports on Aug. 24, after a lengthy debate about how to move forward amid health concerns because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 11-5 vote by the association’s board of directors will allow football games and other contests to start as soon as Sept. 4.  It came after Gov. Ron DeSantis in recent appearances has repeatedly called for holding high-school and football athletic events.

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With the pandemic hitting certain areas of the state particularly hard, including South Florida, the board approved allowing schools to opt out of what is known as the “state series” by Sept. 18 and create their own regional schedules.

Board member Carlos Ochoa, who proposed the opt-out provision, said it would provide flexibility because many school districts might not be ready to begin by Sept. 18.

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Board member Susan Tortora supported moving forward with fall sports, saying people have been “crying out” for a start date. But board member Chris Patricca expressed concern that the plan would be unfair to some counties that might not be able to start sports because of the pandemic.

“It’s all about equity and fairness,” she said.

There’s been no word yet on when Miami-Dade or Broward counties will allow practices to begin.

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