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Return to play: Area high schools finalizing plans to have student-athletes return to campus

Return to play: Area high schools finalizing plans to have student-athletes return to campus

The period just after graduation is typically one in which high school athletic administrators can find some rest and relaxation. 

In 2020, as with most things nowadays, that is not the case.

Most area athletic administrators have been hard at work developing plans to see their student-athletes resume some type of on-campus athletic activities in the coming weeks.

Those plans have finally begun to materialize. 

St. Joseph High School, the area's largest private high school, has formalized its plans to have students resume on-campus activities. 

The St. Joseph football team is slated to return to campus for conditioning and weight training on Monday, June 22. 

The athletic directors from the two Lompoc Valley schools, Cabrillo's Gary West and Lompoc's Claudia Terrones, have also developed plans to have their student-athletes return to campus. 

Nipomo High's Russ Edwards and Arroyo Grande's Stephen Field, both athletic directors in the Lucia Mar Unified School District, have also developed plans to have student-athletes return to campus for modified workouts.

Terrones says she and West have been working with Paul Bommersbach, the former Lompoc High principal who now works in the district office, on "developing a plan to submit to the county for approval. Once the plan is approved, the date (to resume athletic activities) will be set."

Terrones said the guidelines set forth by the CIF office have been instrumental in helping she and her colleagues figure out how to get student-athletes back on campus and what that will look like.

"We would be looking at phase one (of the CIF plan), working in small pod-like groups," Terrones said. "The same groups would be working out together on a daily basis. We're focusing on strength and conditioning. I've been speaking with my coaches, because they're really the experts, and figuring out what it will look like and what that model would look like in their own sport."

As a private school, St. Joseph will likely be the first area high school to get students back on campus.

"Yesterday we received approval from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to move forward with our Return to Participation Guidelines," St. Joseph athletic director Tom Mott wrote in an email that was sent to parents Tuesday. "We are excited to once again welcome the Knights back on campus for a modified version of our summer sports. I'd like to thank (principal) Erinn Dougherty, (strength coach) Eliot Davis, (girls basketball coach) Analise Riezebos  and (football coach) Pepe Villasenor for their assistance with this process."

In the St. Joseph return to participation guidelines, the school says its goal of returning to play is to "provide safe outlets for our student-athletes to improve their physical and mental health" and to "provide opportunities for our student-athletes to safely reconnect with their peers," while also aiming to minimize student-athlete and parent concerns "over the future of sports at St. Joseph High School."

Nearly all athletics in the area have been shut down since March 13 amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

St. Joseph notes that its phase one workouts are completely voluntary and the school will provide alternative opportunities to those who are not comfortable returning to campus.

The requirements included in the St. Joseph guidelines are as follows: Coaches and staff will fill out a COVID screening form each day, prior to attending practice; Start times and dates for various sports have been staggered; Each sport will have designated parking and pick up/drop off locations; No spectators will be allowed to enter any practice facilities or loiter on campus; Face coverings must be worn by all coaches/staff for the duration of their practice; Face coverings must be worn by all students while awaiting their COVID screen/temperature check; Locker rooms will not be available and students must bring own water bottles. 

Student-athletes are not required to wear their masks or face coverings once inside the practice facility. 

At Lucia Mar, the team of Edwards and Field submitted a plan to the district cabinet members last week and will finalize and submit that plan to the school board on June 23. If the school board approves the plan, it will go to the SLO County Health Department for approval. If the district receives county approval, it will spend a week getting acclimated with the aim of returning student-athletes to campus by July 6. 

Terrones, who has gotten familiar with the parental side of this issue as her son Ryan prepares to leave for Arizona State to play football on June 24. Terrones said it has been a grind developing plans to have students back on campus.

"It is challenging," she said. "I emailed some of our ADs earlier and told them I hope they were able to get some 'R and R', because once we are given the go-ahead we are going forward. It's like a competition for me. I want to take it and run with it, but there has to be a plan. We are getting our coaches involved and I want to make sure this is done right."

Santa Ynez athletic director Ashley Coelho said she has been told by the Santa Ynez district that there will be no sports until the county's public health department allows it. Coelho did say the district has approved weight room use for fall sports starting July 6. 

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