High school athletic programs across the state anticipated receiving a start date Thursday for summer workouts. Instead, schools were met with even more uncertainty.

The South Carolina High School League announced Thursday that the state’s public schools can begin summer workouts. However, the SCHSL did not issue a suggested start date. Instead, it put the onus on the schools and school districts to decide when teams may begin activities on campus.

That decision is unlike neighboring states. Alabama (June 1), Georgia (June 8) and North Carolina (June 15) have all advised their high schools on when activities can begin.

SCHSL Commissioner Jerome Singleton and his staff have been working with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and other state health officials to decide how to begin summer workouts in preparation for a fall sports season. The plan will be implemented in three stages.

Phase 1 will remain in place until further notice. The league staff will continue to communicate with the governor’s office and DHEC to establish triggers to move into Phases 2 and 3. It is unclear when Phase 2 would begin.

Lakelands players and coaches remain eager to return to the field. Spring high school sports in South Carolina were shut down in March and officially canceled on April 23. Since then, no on-campus workouts have been allowed. Any activities that have taken place have been voluntary, virtual and not held in groups.

High school football coaches are inclined to be optimistic about the season in the fall, but so much is still unknown despite the SCHSL’s latest announcement.

One potential issue with the SCHSL’s decision is that it could shift the culpability to the school districts if a return to the practice field turned out to be a poor decision.

Some teams could also benefit from starting sooner than other schools. Although fall sports programs have been in the same boat over the past couple of months, it seems inevitable the playing field won’t be even when it comes to being prepared for the season.

As for the South Carolina Independent Schools Association, it ruled last week that the state’s private schools may begin summer workouts as early as today.

Greenwood Christian football coach Jolly Doolittle said the plan is for his team to return to practice today, and it will have to follow strict social distancing guidelines outlined by SCISA.

Some of the guidelines include daily screening, outdoor workouts of 10 or fewer — including coaches — with groups separated by at least 25 yards and players 6 feet apart, and indoor workouts of five per 1,000 square feet.

“It’ll be different — I’ve never had to coach football with players 6 feet apart,” Doolittle said last week. “The good teachers rise to the top, and we’ll find a way to make it work.”

Contact sports writer Wesley Dotson at 864-943-2530 or follow him on Twitter @WesleyPDotson.