Reopening First Before Football (Part 5)

Players from Marin Catholic of Kentfield (left) are shown working out at their school in July under social distancing guidelines. At right is color-coded four-tier state map as of Friday, Aug. 28 as released by the California Department of Health. Photos: &

This is going to be a continuing series on this site until a majority of California high school football teams are practicing and getting ready for their first games. Over the past two-plus weeks, trends are all going in the right direction with San Diego, Orange and Santa Cruz counties taken off the state watch list for Coronavirus but on Friday both Orange and Santa Cruz were coded purple in a new state of California monitoring system. Still, schools in all three counties (plus San Francisco) could be starting to move away from full distance learning by the middle of next month. A State Supreme Court case that may be decided as early as next week also could clear the path for private schools to reopen quickly afterward.

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If there was no Coronavirus pandemic and the usual high school sports schedule was being followed this year in California, the second week of the 2020 football season would be kicking off this weekend in most parts of the state. It would have been opening week for most of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Social media was flooded with images of football last weekend when many of the teams would have opened the season. Instead, there’s still many, many weeks to go until schools can even begin to have any type of normal practices. Sure, there are a few schools beginning to return to having social distance-style workouts with its athletes, but that’s a long way to go until full-contact practices and games.

Trends generally have been heading in the right direction regarding the community spread of the virus, positivity rate of infections and case numbers. Two of the state’s major counties, San Diego and Orange, were dropped off the state’s watch list over the past week to 10 days and several others were almost there.

On Friday, however, it was announced by Governor Gavin Newsom that the state would be switching to a new, four-tier color-coded system of monitoring each county. The colors range from yellow (minimal), orange (moderate), dark pink (substantial) to purple (widespread).

Most of the counties previously on the watch list are now showing purple. Orange County and Santa Cruz County were earlier taken off the watch list in August but are now showing purple. An explanation for that is that the new state guidelines also require a county to be below certain rates measuring positivity and cases per 100,000 residents for 21 days instead of 14 days. Orange County and Santa Cruz County still have lower totals but not for 21 days yet. San Diego County has been lower for 21 days and joined Lake County, Napa County, El Dorado County, Calaveras County and other smaller counties in the substantial categories. Other smaller counties in Northern California are either in the minimal or moderate categories.

San Francisco County also was not in the purple range, either. Plus, looking more closely at the numbers, Placer, Marin and Santa Clara counties also would appear to be close to dropping off of the purple list.

Once those numbers drop down to a certain level and stay there for the 21 straight days, the state’s guidelines surrounding business reopenings and school reopenings should get much more loose.

This is a point in the pandemic that has been reached before, however. Then came the Memorial Day weekend, Father’s Day and the 4th of July. After that, it got much worse and some of the shutdowns that began in March had to be reinstated. That middle to late July time frame also was when the CIF was deciding what to do about the 2020-21 school year. The significant rising case numbers made it practically a mandatory move for the CIF to postpone fall sports until after the new year. Let’s hope the upcoming Labor Day weekend isn’t a repeat. The flu season won’t be far away after that, which will be another hurdle to look for.

Increased numbers of tests and possible new testing methods, continuing improvement in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and of course the deployment of a vaccine also would effectively put kids back into their normal in-person classroom school settings.

Private Schools Take Governor
To State Supreme Court

Friday is a deadline established by the California Supreme Court to obtain written arguments from the administration of Governor Gavin Newsom to respond to lawsuits brought primarily by private schools to defend the orders made by the state that schools can only open with distance learning.

Immanuel of Reedley boys basketball coach Chris Woods guided school’s team to CIF Division 4 state finals in 2019. Photo: Mark Tennis.

According to an article on the California Globe website, most lawsuits come to the State Supreme Court from a lower court and those asking for what is known as a “writ petition” usually are denied.

The essential position of those seeking to overturn orders that prevent schools from opening with students in person is that private schools don’t get state funding to make online learning a reality while public schools have those resources.

Private schools with athletic programs that are part of the lawsuits include Immanuel of Reedley, Linfield Christian of Temecula, Calvary Murrieta of Murrieta and Clovis Christian. The Orange County Board of Education and several parents also are named in the cases.

The state has faced court challenges regarding its public health decrees previously and has prevailed, but one never knows with higher levels of the court. Assuming the governor’s staff will have those arguments done on time, the State Supreme Court could issue a ruling in the case as early as the middle of next week.

Newsom was asked a question about the case on Friday during his daily Coronavirus briefing and only said that he wouldn’t comment on a case in pending litigation.

If the private schools were to win, other private schools from other places in the state may be able to file waivers with their county health departments so they can reopen very quickly.

The Orange County schools may be close to starting to reopen anyway. The Santa Ana Unified School District said it would be certain to remain in distance learning for at least two more weeks.

San Diego Section

With San Diego County going off the watch list and not showing purple on Friday in the state’s new monitoring system announced Friday, one school district we’re following is Poway Unified. It was reported earlier this week by the San Diego Union-Tribune that a meeting will be held on September 10 in that district in which it is expected to vote for schools to be able to begin to reopen in phases.

The San Diego Unified School District, which is the second largest in the state, will be opening next Monday on Aug. 31. It will be using a full distance-learning model, but it’s already been said that San Diego won’t be mirroring the schedule for Los Angeles Unified. Some might think the two are linked since they announced distance learning-only models on that same day in July. The case numbers in L.A. County clearly are still much worse than in San Diego.

L.A. City Unified

Superintendent Austin Beutner told a CBS TV station earlier this week that he and other officials are keeping “a close eye” on school reopenings across the country.

The L.A. Unified School District opened on August 18 with full distance learning and since then also has begun to implement an aggressive, comprehensive testing program. That program can begin with staff who are choosing to work on school sites and those that still need to be at school sites.

One would assume that Beutner is watching what happens in New York City, which has the largest school district in the nation and will have many students in classrooms as its school year begins. New York was the hardest hit city in the nation in the early months of the pandemic, but is now only seeing a trickle of cases. Its schools therefore can open with far fewer health department guidelines.

Troy Franklin of Menlo-Atherton was one of the most exciting players in the Bay Area as a sophomore and junior. Photo:

Players Deciding
to Stay Or Move On

One of the factors that is likely causing a lot of those current seniors with Division I scholarship offers to delay their final decisions about whether to play for their high schools in a January to March season or go ahead and report to their colleges is what might happen in the Pac-12 Conference.

The Pac-12 schools, which obviously recruit heavily throughout California, won’t be playing football this fall. It is still not known whether there will be a shortened, spring Pac-12 season and how that season might be conducted.

If there is a similar Pac-12 season in the winter or early spring, many of the outgoing college seniors may not play since it is anticipated that the annual NFL Draft in April will not be moved. And if many of the college seniors aren’t playing, one possibility is that incoming freshmen might be eligible to play right away in the spring for their new college teams. If that were to happen, then obviously just about every Class of 2020 recruit wouldn’t play for their high schools. We’ll just have to wait and see.

“I definitely talked about that with a couple of my coaches (at Oregon) because they have that deal where you can play four games and then redshirt,” said 2018 State Sophomore of the Year Troy Franklin of Menlo-Atherton in an article from the San Jose Mercury-News. “When I get up there and if I am ready, definitely will play in those games. No doubt.”

Franklin is one of several Bay Area players who’ve already indicated they are not going to be playing a senior season for their high schools. Others include tight end Jermaine Terry from Kennedy of Richmond and defensive lineman Akili Calhoun from Liberty of Brentwood, who are both going to Cal.

One player who previously had said he was leaving but now will be playing a senior season at his high school is linebacker Raesjon Davis from Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Raesjon has committed to LSU.

CIF Sac-Joaquin Section

Poor air quality in the Central Valley last weekend stretched from Sacramento down to Bakersfield and with temperatures also soaring to well past 100 degrees if there had been football games last weekend it’s likely that many of them would have had delayed starting times or not played at all. One of the fires producing all of the smoke was especially devastating to the community of Vacaville.

Still, there were plenty in the local media looking forward to the football season. The Sacramento Bee released a preseason All-Metro team and had preseason rankings with Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills), led by top returning QB Justin Lamson, in the top position. We’ll be doing preseason state rankings at a later date when it can be more accurately reflected which top players are leaving for college in January.

CIF North Coast Section

Just one day after we did our last installment of this series of posts about reopening schools first before football, schools from the Humboldt-Del Norte area of the NCS voted to adopt a different calendar than the rest of the section (and really the rest of the state).

Instead of the two-season plan, the Humboldt-Del Norte schools want to do three seasons with the main difference being that they want football to be played primarily outside of the January-February months and with basketball (boys and girls) to be in those earlier months. With the weather issues in that far northwest region of the state, that makes sense. The schools there know that by altering the schedules that its teams in those sports wouldn’t be eligible for any NCS playoffs. In the other sports, the proposed Humboldt-Del Norte calendar would still seem to line up with the rest of the NCS and therefore those schools would be able to be in the playoffs.

The Humboldt-Del Norte plan does need approval by the NCS Board of Managers if it were to happen. The next NCS Board of Managers meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2.

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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