Unease permeates high school sports as start date nears

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But what is the so-called “new normal” and when will it happen? A lot depends on the health and safety protocols being met, of course.

Could we possibly be getting closer to high school sports tak­ing the field for the 2020-21 sea­son before the winter solstice?

It would certainly be a welcome holiday gift.

When the State CIF Office voted in July to push the start of the upcoming fall season to mid- December practices and Janu­ary games, the modified sched­ule was constructed as a plan if health conditions in the state warranted the late start.

It was devised as a plan pro­vided all things were in place to proceed. It was not necessarily a guaranteed timetable.

Three months later, parents, coaches, student-athletes and administrators must be feeling a sense of frustration as the pan­demic shows no sign of abating soon. Infection rates remain high as the county occupies one of the lowest reopening tiers in the state.

The opening date for practice for fall sports is Dec. 12. That’s still two months away, so there’s always hope that things could change for the bet­ter.

Some schools in San Di­ego County have already opened, in fact.

San Diego Section Commissioner Joe Heinz expressed a sense of op­timism in an Oct. 5 letter to principals and athletic directors posted on the sec­tion’s website (www.cifsds. org).

“As we move into Octo­ber, we are hopefully mov­ing in a positive direction in effort to resume our sports programs on Dec. 12,” he wrote. “CIF-SDS schools are now conducting condi­tioning workouts on their campuses following the appropriate health and safety guidelines recommended by state and local health authorities.

“I would like to thank our prin­cipals, athletic directors, and coaches for their ongoing com­mitment in guiding our student-athletes through these challeng­ing times in a healthy and safe manner. We must continue to follow the advice of health pro­fessionals through the critical weeks ahead as our communities continue to open.”

The December start date is not far off, which has started to cre­ate a sense of uneasiness among some.

Students have already begun to let their voices be heard: They want to go back to school.

The feeling among many coaches is that high school sports depend on in-school atten­dance. No fannies in classroom seats equates to no cleats on the playing field.

Among the 19 schools granted waivers by the county in late Au­gust to reopen, nine field high school sports teams: Christian High School, Calvary Christian Academy, Francis Parker School, La Jolla Country Day School, Ocean View Christian Academy, Santa Fe Christian School, The Bishop’s School, The Cambridge School and The Rock Academy.

Christian High School is lo­cated in El Cajon while Francis Parker, La Jolla Country Day and Bishop’s all draw a segment of their student populations from East County.

Many more schools in the re­gion are in the process of reopen­ing in phases, with a combination of in-person and distance learn­ing, while other districts remain committed strictly to online learning through the end of the year.

But what is the so-called “new normal” and when will it happen? A lot depends on the health and safety protocols being met, of course.

Outdoor classes to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 vi­rus, small class size, social dis­tancing, mask-wearing (for older students) and testing of staff all factor into the equation.

It’s an encouraging start, even if it only means that high school sports are on schedule to hit the planned winter start date.

But there are still a lot of un­knowns and unanswered ques­tions.

What happens if a student-ath­lete tests positive for the virus? Will he/she simply be removed from the team roster or will the entire team be penalized?

How effective can contract trac­ing be in high school where being social is the norm? Can minors be tested for the virus without pa­rental consent?

Heinz said the section’s health and safety committee had set an Oct. 14 meeting date to start “dis­cussions regarding potential pro­active Return to Play health and safety measures” to share with member schools.

“We are still awaiting any of­ficial guidance that may be required from the California Department of Health or State CIF office,” he wrote in the Oct. 5 memo. “We hope to be able to provide some resources to our sec­tion schools to begin the planning process for the start of Season 1 on Dec. 12.”

College and professional sports teams have started to test these precarious waters, hoping for the best.

The National Hockey League and National Basketball League got through playoff tournaments by playing in a protective bubble, with all teams and all games at a designated site.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball, Major League Soc­cer and the National Football League have attempted a “safe” return to the playing field, yet all leagues have had to postpone or cancel games due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

High school sports likely can­not play in a protective bubble.

Master calendar

Badminton, field hockey, boys and girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo can start playing games on Dec. 19, though gym­nastics, roller hockey and cross country cannot begin official competitions until Dec. 26.

Football games are scheduled to kick-off on Jan. 8, with teams playing 10 games in 10 weeks. The regular season is scheduled to end on March 12, followed by the start of the section playoffs on March 19.

Unease permeates high school sports as start date nears

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