Huntington Beach Union High School District rolls out athletics reopening plan

Marina High School athletes work out on campus on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach Union High School District has provided a framework for the resumption of athletics and performing arts programs that had been shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday marked the first day that district schools could resume sports workouts, albeit with a litany of protocols in place.

“First day was a feeling that is hard to put into words,” Ocean View High School football coach Luis Nunez said. “I had goosebumps of joy to see all the kids on the field together again. I know a lot of districts started and shut down and started up again, but in [the Huntington Beach Union High School District], we never got the opportunity to ever start since March. This is the first summer I did not have football since ninth grade, as I have always had practice as a player or coach since 1995.”

The school district’s reopening guidelines provide for a phased rollout with three parts. Currently in Phase I, all sports can resume workouts. People must spread out into groups of 10 or fewer outdoors. There will be a limit of 50 people per outdoor facility throughout the reopening phases.

Sports were categorized as listed below:

Low risk: running sports, swimming sports, sideline cheer and song, noncontact dance, golf, choir choreography, and string and percussion instruments.

Moderate risk: baseball, volleyball, tennis, badminton, girls’ lacrosse, soccer, basketball, softball, water polo and field hockey.

High risk: wrestling, football, boys’ lacrosse, competitive cheer and song, and contact dance.

Marina High School athletes go through agility drills on campus on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Marina football coach Jeff Turley said that he had about 47 kids between varsity and junior varsity show up on Monday. He added that a number of athletes opted out of coming out this week with the workouts being optional.

Turley said the workouts at this point have primarily consisted of agility drills and conditioning using body weight.

Orange County came off the state’s coronavirus monitoring list on Sunday, starting a 14-day countdown before schools could be allowed to physically reopen. Turley is hopeful that timeline might also be the basis for moving into Phase II of the resumption of athletics.

“There’s a wishful one,” Turley said regarding a timeline for moving into Phase II. “They took Orange County off the watch list, so I sit there and go, ‘OK, 14 days from now, we should be able to go to Phase II.’ I’m hoping and praying that everything just keeps settling down and we can move into Phase II in a couple of weeks.”

A social distance of 6 feet will be practiced, with no athlete contact or use of locker rooms during the first two phases.

Phase II does provide for 10 people to be indoors, and equipment can be shared on a limited basis for moderate- and high-risk sports. At that point, low-risk sports can resume practice, and moderate-risk sports can start practicing in a modified format.

High-risk sports can only begin practicing with modifications once in Phase III, during which the maximum number of people in an indoor facility will be increased to 50.

At Newport-Mesa Unified, where 19,000 students Monday logged into a new school year, officials say there’s much work to be done before physical campuses reopen.

Rich Boyce, the athletic director and boys’ basketball coach at Edison, echoed the sentiments of other area coaches in saying it was nice to be together with his players. He said he led the Chargers through some abdominal workouts and social-distanced running on the first day back.

“I know they’re seeing each other anyway, but I just wanted to see each other as a team and as a program,” Boyce said. “They got to see each other, but obviously, there’s no basketball stuff. We didn’t touch a ball or anything like that.”

Local athletic directors reported a limited number of sports participating in the first stage of reopening due to the limitations.

“We are excited for the reopening of athletics, even at this early phase,” Huntington Beach athletic director Melissa Vandenbosch said, noting that football, boys’ and girls’ water polo, cross-country, field hockey and boys’ tennis have been active this week for the Oilers. “The other sports have chosen to wait until we reach Phase II due to the limitations in place at Phase I.”

Fountain Valley athletic director Roger Holmes said that the school has boys’ and girls’ water polo and softball going on this week.

To participate in workouts, students must have a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian acknowledging that they have received notification of and understand the district’s guidelines for the return of athletics.

Temperature checks are to be performed for students and coaches upon their arrival, and anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home. They would then be barred from on-campus activities for a 14-day period unless cleared by a medical doctor.

The guidelines state that only athletes can come onto school grounds as part of the athletics reopening. In the interest of limiting the number of people at a facility, no spectators, including parents, are allowed at the workouts or practices. Parents are also asked to stay in their cars when dropping off and picking up their kids.

Face coverings are required for athletes and coaches as they enter and leave campus. Each phase also has rules implemented for facility cleaning and hydration.

Huntington Beach Union High School District will begin its academic year with distance learning on Sept. 2.

Marina High School athletes work out on campus on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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