It was only a matter of time before the high school level of athletics would follow suite after the professional sports leagues were quick to act when it came to shutting their seasons down, or postponing them until further notice. Wednesday, March 11, was a dark day for the NBA and the NHL when they cancelled the remainder of their season, and Thursday it was a dark day for collegiate and many other professional sports as one-by-one the notice of sporting events nationwide were put on hold, some indefinitely for the 2020 season. Despite the fact that the average draw of spectators at a high school event doesn’t come anywhere near the draw a professional or collegiate team brings in, the concerns are still the same at that level.
Local school districts started announcing as of Thursday, March 13, that they have postponed or canceled high school athletic events because of concerns regarding the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
The majority of postponements or cancellations in recent days have been weather-related, but a handful of upcoming track and field, baseball and softball, and swimming invitationals, where area teams were scheduled to compete, have been postponed or canceled because of concerns about the coronavirus.
Temecula Valley, Perris Union and the Murrieta Valley Unified School Districts have postponed all athletic events through the end of March, while districts like Val Verde Unified are canceling sporting events. At this point, all area athletic directors are in communication with league partners and are working on a plan for events in April and beyond. The Murrieta Valley district covers 18 schools, including Murrieta Valley, Vista Murrieta and Murrieta Mesa high schools. The district released information that also stated all use of the city’s Civic Center have been suspended until further notice.
“We deeply respect the work and dedication our students, staff, and families give to our extra-curricular activities, athletics, and events,” the release from Murrieta Valley Unified said. “We sincerely apologize for having to modify, postpone, and in some cases, cancel these extra-curricular activities.”
The Temecula Valley Unified School District stated that, “In accordance with guidance from the California State Governor and RUHS-PH, all TVUSD schools are postponing/canceling non-essential activities outside of regularly scheduled school hours. This includes all civic center use, extra-curricular activities, events, athletic practices, and competitions. The timeframe this is to be in effect is March 12 through April 5, 2020.” The actual order from RUHS-PH is through April 30. The school district says they will provide updated guidance prior to returning from Spring Break.
“Our top priority continues to be the health and safety of our students and staff, and we take this responsibility seriously,” says Tim Ritter, Superintendent, Temecula Valley Unified School District. “Families, thank you for your partnership during this community-wide concern. Our main goals are to focus on student learning and health while keeping you informed.”
The Val Verde Unified oversees 24 schools, including Citrus Hill, Orange Vista and Rancho Verde high schools. A release from the district Thursday said a decision was made to cancel athletics, field trips, travel and after school activities (excluding the Think Together Program) through the end of March.
The Perris Union High School District (PUHSD) has made the decision to postpone all extracurricular and athletic events through the end of Spring Break, April 12, 2020.
The Hemet Unified School District, as well as the San Jacinto Unified School District, is stating that all athletic competitions, practices and banquets, Saturday School, all student and staff trips/conferences, including trips to other schools within their boundaries and all parent volunteer opportunities have been canceled through Monday, March 30, until they can reassess things.
Rob Wigod, Commissioner of Athletics for the CIF Southern Section had this to say, “We are too large of an entity, both by number of schools and by geographic area, to have a “one size fits all” response to this virus. We believe the important decisions regarding school closures, cancelling/postponing athletic events, etc., should be made by local schools and school districts in concert with their local and state health officials, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. This is the most efficient plan of action going forward and we have full confidence in our local leaders to make the correct decisions in keeping their students and families safe.”
Though things are still up in the air when it comes to what will happen beyond the next few weeks with the future of the high school spring sports programs in our area, each district was consistent in saying that their administration will continue to be in regular communication with Riverside University Health Systems-Public Health (RUHS-PH), as well as federal and state agencies, related to the rapidly changing COVID-19 novel coronavirus situation our state and nation are facing.
In Riverside County, officials have reported eight coronavirus cases, including five in the Coachella Valley. The source of three of these cases has not been determined, so it is considered a community spread. Community spread involves transmission of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. It indicates that the virus was not contracted through relevant travel history or contact to a known case of COVID-19 and suggests that the virus is present in the community. Riverside University Health Systems, Public Health has issued several guidance tool kits as well as accurate, up-date-information. Please visit www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.
JP Raineri can be reached via email at email@example.com.