Reopening First Before Football

Shown in this photo illustration are photos from the William S. Hart Union High School District, Stockton Unified School District, Poway Unified School District and Clovis Unified School District.

Before the prospects of how or when the 2020 high school football season will get going in the state, schools have to reopen and will need to do that successfully. Here’s a look at various school districts across the state and how they stand heading into the first full week of July.

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There are still two weeks to go before the California Interscholastic Federation issues its next directives regarding the fall high school sports season, including football, but with the uptick in COVID-19 cases, positivity of testing and hospitalizations in many places of the state, it’s looking more doubtful that any activities will be going on as scheduled in August.

The big question for high school football during the 2020-21 school year in the state may center around whether the fall season will be delayed and shortened compared to being pushed back all the way to January. Football is clearly viewed as a high risk activity by all health experts. The only other sports that are would be wrestling and boys lacrosse. Cross country and golf are low risk so those fall sports could be held this year as usual while football is delayed.

There’s also the possibility of some areas of the state having a different path compared to others. And if the season in California is greatly altered and it isn’t in other states, some parents may be willing to move to those other states. It’s very sad that public health has become such a hot-button political issue, but it’s easy to see Republican/red states having as normal a high school football season as possible but Democrat/blue states being more cautious. And while California is definitely blue, there are more rural areas in the north that are not.

No matter what is announced by the CIF on July 20, those statements will be framed by what is happening in school districts and county boards of education from all across the state. We combed through all of the sources we could find and here’s a snapshot look of various plans. We didn’t include several school districts since we noticed key board meetings were scheduled to be held on either July 6 or July 7.

Anaheim Union HS District (Southern Section) — First day of school continues to be set for August 12. The current plan is to open with a distance learning hybrid format. Students will be on campus at least one day in person with kids grouped according to their last name.

Capistrano Unified (Southern Section) — August 18 is the listed start date. The district is currently offering two programs for its high school students. For one, students will be on campus 2 1/2 days per week with the remainder of their academic time spent in online study or home supplementary activities. For the second, it is allowing a 100 percent online learning program. The district notes that in Phase 2 re-opening it can’t have all students returning to campus due to space limitations.

Central Union High School District (San Diego Section) — This is the school district for El Centro, which is in hard-hit Imperial County. School is still scheduled to start on August 11, but it will be entirely with distance learning. Imperial County still hasn’t gotten to Stage 2B for re-opening and that will have to happen first before some of the distance learning combined with limited on-campus instruction can even begin.

Clovis Unified (Central Section) — A survey was sent to parents earlier in June with 80 percent indicating a desire for students going back to the classroom four to five days per week. Only 35 percent wanted to remain online, but despite the lack of support the district told local media that it will be an option regardless. Since that survey was done, of course, the state and nation have seen a dramatic rise in cases/hospitalizations & spread of the virus. Look for more soon from this key district that we follow closely on many fronts.

State powerhouse Corona Centennial
is one of the schools in the Corona-Norco school district. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Corona-Norco Unified (Southern Section) — The district has a comprehensive plan available through its website. There are year-round schools and some of them actually are starting this week. They will be doing so in a remote learning environment. Other year-round schools (different tracks) are starting August 3. Those can be with a traditional school environment shared with remote learning or with virtual school. As the district explained, virtual school and remote learning combined with traditional are treated differently with different curriculums. On August 11, all traditional schools will start with one of those two options. If kids opt for virtual school, they will stay in that mode until a natural break in the schedule occurs like the end of a semester. This district also has a special section for athletics (noting a deference to its county health department).

Eastside High School District (Central Coast Section) — A letter last week to those in the San Jose area where these schools are located from Superintendent Chris Funk announced that due to Santa Clara County’s highest case numbers coming from within its boundaries that the upcoming school year will start in distance learning mode. It also was mentioned that “schools will more than likely close at some point during the school year.”

Elk Grove Unified (Sac-Joaquin Section) — Updates are still to come at a July 23 board meeting so there still could be changes when secondary schools resume on August 13. The board met last week on Zoom and presented four options that families can sign up for (which also began last week). The four are Transitional Model, Distance Learning, Independent Study or Elk Grove Charter School. Only 28 percent of the district’s families said they prefer a full return to campus but even a majority of them said they’d participate in distance learning until county health restrictions allow.

Kern Unified High School District (Central Section) — The school board didn’t take an action for which reopening plan Bakersfield’s high schools will follow in a meeting last week, but will meet again for a special board meeting in a couple of weeks. The proposed model calls for one group of students on campus on Monday/Tuesday with another group on campus Thursday/Friday with Wednesday reserved for a support day. There would be deep cleaning of classrooms every night and students required to wear facemasks.

Los Angeles Archdiocese (Southern Section) — This archdiocese represents all of the Catholic high schools in Ventura, Santa Barbara and L.A. County. According to the L.A. Daily News from an article two weeks ago, local superintendent of schools Paul M. Escala said all schools will go back to on-campus instruction this fall. Each school can customize its own plan and he said distance learning will continue to be an option for those who want it.

Los Angeles Unified (L.A. City Section) — No plans are definite. School is still scheduled to start on August 18. The next big board meetings are this week so a lot should be known then. Published plans do all have distance learning to remain in place as an option.

Mount Diablo Unified (North Coast Section) — In person ELL/IEP with hybrid and virtual options are being offered to all families. Masks are optional for students, mandatory for teachers. Class sizes each day will be capped at 15 with social distancing. The first day of school is still on for August 13.

Oakland Unified (Oakland Section) — District leaders shared plans with families last week and will have another meeting on July 13 when “final or close-to-final plans will be shared.” One of the options discussed was for distance learning for the entire 2020-21 school year. A more phased-in approach similar to the state’s system seems more likely.

Poway Unified (San Diego Section) — Parents are going to be sent instructions early in July to sign up their kids with either On Campus Learning (following state health guidelines) or virtual learning academy. Face coverings on campus will be required for staff but only “strongly encouraging” for students.

San Lorenzo Unified (North Coast Section) — The projected first day of school is August 20. Classes will begin with 100 percent distance learning with a plan to phase in a hybrid model including a mix of distance/in-person classes by the middle of October.

Head coach Rick Jackson of San Diego Unified School District member Madison High celebrates after team won 2012 CIF D3 state title. Photo: Mark Tennis.

San Diego Unified (San Diego) — It’s back to school on August 31. The school board voted on June 16 to offer full school days with social distancing/smaller class sizes as one option with the other being distance learning. At that time, the board didn’t know how much money it was getting from the state, though, and since then a lot of the possible education cuts were saved in the state budget that was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Santa Rosa City Schools (North Coast Section) — The next big board meeting is Wednesday of this week. According to superintendent Dr. Diann Kitamura’s email to staff and families on June 23, the district is “not looking at having full classes for the start of school unless Sonoma County moves to Stage 4.” Several hybrid models of distance learning and having a smaller number of students on campus at a time are being considered.

Shasta County Schools (Northern Section) — A lot of the more rural counties and districts have yet to issue detailed reopening plans. According to the Redding Record-Searchlight two weeks ago, there was a petition signed by 4,000 people wanting schools in the county to re-open under a full return with no distance learning. We also saw an article on the Shasta County Sports website in which more than one coach pointed out that the CIF state office is only going to give scheduling for state events and that section events could be different. We actually don’t know if it would be possible for the Northern Section to have a football season in the fall with all other sections not doing it. There are no counties in the state, not even way up north, that are in Phase 4 of re-opening and Phase 4 is where football seems to be.

Stockton Unified (Sac-Joaquin Section) — Interim superintendent Brian Biedermann laid it out last week that school will start as scheduled on August 3. The district will follow the re-opening phases of San Joaquin County Public Health so it will be in a Phase 2 plan as of now. This would mean a hybrid on-line/in-person schedule in which students would be on campus twice per week. The teachers would have half their students one day, half the next, Wednesday would be a deep cleaning and then Thursday and Friday would be the two halves of students again. If the county had to go back to Phase 1, then all classes are distance learning. If it went to Phase 3, there would be not as much distance learning. In Phase 4, it’s everyone back on campus for every day.

Tuolomne County Schools (Sac-Joaquin Section) — This is one of the smaller, more rural counties we checked. A planning guide was released on June 25 that simply laid out all of the options, from a full regular reopening with healthy hygiene and physical distancing to the alternative plans. The guide did indicate that families not comfortable coming back would be accommodated.

William S. Hart Union High School District (Southern Section) — The governing board of the district met last week, but simply laid out options for a parents’ survey that is continuing this week. Families are choosing from online instruction or blended (including in-person). As a district in a more hard-hit county from COVID-19, superintendent Mike Kuhlman told the Santa Clarita Signal: “It’s important for everybody to understand the scope of our board’s authority and every local governing board’s authority is restricted by our county of Los Angeles Public Health order. Sometimes, I believe that there may be a misunderstanding that while it’s true that our board makes the decision about when we return to school … those details are defined by the mandates found in the Public Health order.”

Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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