L.A. school board official: Sports conditioning could resume ‘in the next few weeks’

Los Angeles Board of Education President Kelly Gonez.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Los Angeles Times)

Kelly Gonez, the president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, used to play for the girls’ basketball team at Mission Hills Bishop Alemany High. She said she understands the importance parents place on having their children play sports in high school.

But Gonez said Thursday during a phone interview it remains uncertain when the Los Angeles Unified School District will allow high school sports competitions to return to campuses while the pandemic is present in the community.

“In L.A. Unified, we’re taking a tier approach that is tied to COVID in our community,” she said.


Gonez indicated that conditioning will be permitted to resume “in the next few weeks,” and then it will be assessed how safely schools handle that to determine if certain sports competitions can begin. Also in the equation is whether a hybrid classroom model would allow students to return to the classroom. The teachers union has said it does not favor opening schools until teachers are vaccinated.

Across Southern California, dozens of sports teams have returned to conditioning with safety protocols. Schools are waiting to see if the California Department of Public Health that might clear the way for the twice-delayed football season to begin next month.

LAUSD has provided no indication there will be a high school sports season in 2020-21, so parents are left with one option: leave the district.

Feb. 17, 2021

Continuing obstacles make it unlikely that LAUSD would be ready to participate immediately if there’s a change in the state youth sports guidance. Since Jan. 25, Los Angeles County schools have been allowed to compete in cross-country, swimming, tennis and golf as part of the current purple tier, where there’s widespread community transmission of the coronavirus.

“Obviously, we’re working as urgently as we can toward a safe reopening,” she said. “I can’t put an exact date when that will occur. We are moving toward that.”

While the district’s priority is on academic learning, Gonez said the social and physical opportunities for athletes also are important. She said the district will monitor how the athletic conditioning proceeds once approved. There are 88 high schools in LAUSD.

In November, students and coaches were allowed on campuses to condition subject to weekly COVID-19 testing. A surge in COVID-19 cases in December caused Supt. Austin Beutner to close campuses. No announcement has been made regarding when conditioning would resume.


Independent charter school El Camino Real has resumed conditioning, and Birmingham will begin next week. Asked what would be the reaction if the charter schools began playing sports while LAUSD schools did not, Gonez said, “I’m sure rivals would not be pleased with that, but I don’t think there are any policy issues that would prevent them from doing that.”