School team sports unable to be played without physical distancing, L.A. County says

LAUSD Supt. Austin Beutner, who announced that students won't be returning to campuses on Aug. 18.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Health Department, said Monday in guidance to the county’s 80 school districts that school team sports in grades K-12 are unable to be played without physical distancing, putting in jeopardy the 2020 high school football season.

“Team sports that don’t allow for physical distancing aren’t permitted to start up again,” Ferrer said.

That doesn’t bode well for nearly all sports, and especially for the one most closely associated with fall Friday nights: Football.

“That means in order for us to play a close proximity game like football, it’s probably not going to happen,” Garfield coach Lorenzo Hernandez said.

The City Section is almost certain to face a delay in high school football after Los Angeles Unified School Supt. Austin Beutner announced Monday that the school year will begin Aug. 18 without students. Trent Cornelius, the LAUSD sports director, has said if students are not on campus, there wouldn’t be sports.


“At the height of this moment, it’s not safe,” Hernandez said.

The California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing body for high school sports, is scheduled to announce July 20 the sports calendar for the 2020-21 school year. Coaches and administrators in Southern California believe the season will be delayed until January for safety reasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the calendar is announced, it will be up to the 10 sections in the state to decide scheduling.

Schools tried to begin conditioning workouts last month, but many have since stopped because of state health recommendations. Sherman Oaks Notre Dame has continued outside football conditioning but closed its weight room this week in a precautionary measure to avoid indoor gatherings.

It remains to be seen what the Southern Section will do with its schedule if the CIF decides to delay the start until January. Sports such as golf and tennis are in the best position to be played with social distancing measures.

Beutner said he wants testing for students and staff before reopening facilities to students, creating a major obstacle to overcome.

Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this story.