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Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley set to resume athletics Sept. 21
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Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley set to resume athletics Sept. 21

Joining other area high school districts, Santa Maria Joint Union has set a target date to return to athletic activities.

The three district schools with athletic programs, Righetti, Santa Maria and Pioneer Valley, are planning to bring student-athletes back to campus on Monday, Sept. 21.

SMJUHSD joins most area high schools who already have return-to-play dates in place. St. Joseph High School resumed athletic activities on Aug. 24. Lompoc Unified, with Cabrillo and Lompoc, is planning to return on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Santa Ynez Valley Union High is scheduled to return on Monday, Sept. 14. The Warriors, Saints and Panthers will follow on Sept. 21.

Mission Prep's football team returned to athletic activities on Monday.

Though student-athletes are returning to campus, they are not yet participating in full-fledged practices. Instead, programs are running modified conditioning drills with safety protocols in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m excited for this opportunity, for our community and its athletes,” Righetti Athletic Director Kevin Barbarick said in a press release from the district. “I also commend district leadership for enabling programs to return to play.”

No area high schools have held any sanctioned competitions since play was suspended on March 13. The spring season was eventually canceled, forcing hundreds of athletes to lose a season of competition. St. Joseph High began a modified conditioning program over the summer, on June 22, but shut it down about week later as COVID-19 cases spiked in Santa Barbara County.

The state then released new guidelines for youth and school sports on Aug. 1, opening the door for athletes to get back on campus.

“Under state, CIF and county guidelines, Righetti, Santa Maria and Pioneer Valley high schools will be shooting for a Sept. 21 start date for return to play,” Assistant Superintendent John Davis said in a press release.

The district said its schools will aim to implement phase one of summer preparations in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, "following in the footsteps of other area schools such as St. Joseph, Cabrillo, and Lompoc."

"SMJUHSD leadership feels that coaches who are trained in cohorts, pods, spacing and outdoor public safety will begin an extended summer conditioning period," the district press release said. “Athletic Directors and administrators will review CIF, county and district Return-to-Activities guidelines with coaches and players."

The district released some details for its opening implementation phase. Those guidelines include coaches working with the same 10 athletes each week in pods, which also must keep a distance of 20 feet apart.

"Coaches will be focused on the reintroduction of sport specific movement, individual drills, and overall conditioning," the district said.

Per the guidelines, teams will not be allowed to use gyms, weight rooms, and pools or sport specific equipment.

"Athletes are not to share equipment, make physical contact and six feet of social distance will be strictly enforced," the district said in its release.

Student-athletes who wish to participate in these activities must have a district 'Return-to-Activity' waiver signed by a parent or guardian, which requires assessing the student for any COVID-19 symptoms. Athletes also must bring an individual water bottle, complete the athletic clearance packet and have a current physical on file.

The district is still ironing some details, like which teams and which grade levels will be returning to campus. Those details likely will be determined by how many athletes plan to return to campus at the start of phase one.

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