Perris Union High School District board members continue to delay a decision on approving workouts for athletes at Paloma Valley, Heritage and Perris high schools. The announcement was made last week, and many parents of student-athletes are expressing frustration. At the PUHSD board meeting, board members tabled a proposal by superintendent Grant Bennett that would allow workouts to begin in the next week, and that fueled the community to start sharing their voices. A peaceful protest is set for Wednesday, September 30, in the City of Menifee and is being planned by families in the community with impacted student athletes.
High school athletes in surrounding districts have been participating for two weeks in modified workouts in preparation for the revised CIF start of the sports season in December. Many districts gave this approval after Riverside County’s announcement in August that youth sports could resume workouts and practices.
Athletes in the Murrieta Valley School District are practicing outside, using social distancing, temperature checks, and are kept in groups of no more than 20. This is the model PUHSD athletic directors used in authoring the proposal that was reviewed by the PUHSD board on Wednesday, said Heritage athletic director Scott Moore.
On July 20, the CIF Southern Section office announced a revised calendar in which seasons for football, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls water polo, boys and girls volleyball, field hockey, gymnastics and cheer would begin in December. Following the Feb. 5 County announcement about youth sports workouts, school districts in Murrieta, Temecula and Lake Elsinore began allowing workouts in those sports.
According to the proposal, Phase 1 would include workouts without equipment. Phase 2 would include use of equipment and the weight room for conditioning. Phase 3 would allow actual team practices, such as scrimmages. Athletes have been on their own since March, with no spring sports season or spring football practice because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The athletic directors built this plan and many were hoping to see it in action by next week, since it mimics that of other local schools districts that have actually put a plan in place. Trustee Randall Freeman suggested reducing the number of athletes in a group from 20 to 10, with which others agreed. Trustee Jose Luis Araux suggested that 10 is a safer number because it is the same as the guidance originally provided by Riverside County for gatherings.
Scott Moore, Heritage High School’s Athletic Director who attended the virtual board meeting, said he would return to his colleagues with the board’s request for smaller groups and other concerns they expressed.
“It could be difficult, say if volleyball has 80 kids out and we only have four coaches,” Moore said to the media last week. “But if the board decides the number should be 10, we can adjust. Everything should be negotiable at this point”
Questions about where athletes would use restrooms and whether that meant school buildings would have to be opened were brought about by Board President Anthony Stafford. Moore responded that at Heritage, restrooms at the football stadium and baseball stadium would be used for workouts, which would be held outside. Another concern, however, was whether enough sanitation would be provided at the restrooms and that the union to which school custodians belong has not been consulted.
Stafford also said he was concerned that a long disclaimer parents must sign had not been reviewed by the district’s legal counsel. Moore said the disclaimer language was taken from a document being used in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District. Athletic directors are said to be meeting as soon as possible to address the concerns and suggest revisions to the plan.
Monica Gutierrez, public information officer for the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, told the media last week that in addition to social distancing, temperature checks and small groups, the district is requiring athletes to be screened daily before working out. No equipment is being used in the first phase, locker rooms are not used, and each athlete is required to bring a water bottle that can’t be shared with others.
All coaches look at the strength and conditioning as a step in moving forward towards bringing students back to campus.
“They worked collectively in researching health and safety practices specific to youth athletics as well as plans on ensuring best practices were implemented consistently among all high schools and teams,” Gutierrez said. “Thankfully, we have not encountered any problems thus far with the conditioning, the athletes or the safety precautions in place.”
The peaceful protest will begin at 5 p.m. on the corner of Newport Road and Hahn Road Wednesday, Sept. 30. Organizers are asking for as much support as possible since the school board will vote again Thursday, Oct. 1.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.