September 20, 2020

Public high schools allowing athletes to return to practices before in-person instruction

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Local public high schools are allowing their athletic teams to hold practices on campus while the schools continue with distance learning and no in-person classes because of the coronavirus pandemic. To some, the situation might seem backwards, but it’s not surprising to many of the coaches and athletic directors.

The latest information from the Los Angeles County Public Health Department allows high school athletes to participate in supervised practices or conditioning if the activities follow the safety guidelines, which require physical distancing, appropriate face coverings, and outdoor activity only. The guidelines also allow for athletes to work in pairs throwing or kicking a ball.

It’s up to school districts to tighten the health department’s guidelines, but they can’t be loosened.

The Las Virgenes School District, which includes Calabasas and Agoura high schools, is allowing partner passing. Calabasas’ football and baseball teams, for example, can play catch as long as the ball is kept with the same pair of athletes. If a ball is to be used by a different athlete, it must be sanitized — all part of the health department’s guidelines.

“Athletic activity is outdoors and school is indoors, it makes all the difference in terms of safety,” said Jon Palarz, the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Calabasas. “I’m not that surprised that athletics is active before class is in-person. Our superintendent has been very supportive in trying to get our athletes active safely.”

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Westlake High, which is part of the Westlake City School District, has an enrollment of roughly 1,200 students. A student body that large, with 25 to 35 students per classroom, presents more of a health risk than athletes spread across an outdoor field in groups of 10.

Westlake’s football team has been practicing, but its district isn’t allowing for partner passing. The team has focused on conditioning.

“I’m not surprised (athletics are happening) because of the precaution our school is taking in making sure our athletes are safe,” Westlake athletic director Brad Katz said. “I’m thankful that our district is allowing athletes to practice and have some fun.”

The differences in what districts are allowing could be a controversial topic later this fall. Districts separated by mere miles are enforcing different rules, such as some quarterbacks are being allowed to work on their passing while others can’t, and that could serve as an advantage for some teams once the season begins.

Palmdale’s Highland High football team will begin conditioning this week, according to head coach Richard Lear. He says the Bulldogs will take the field but only to condition – no footballs will be used.

“According to our school district, we are not allowed to share equipment at all,” Lear said.

Highland is part of an eight-team Golden League, all schools from the Antelope Valley Unified School District, which is part of Los Angeles County.

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Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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