GONZALES — Board members for Gonzales Unified School District heard a report from Superintendent Yvette Irving about the return of Gonzales High School athletes to conditioning during their Oct. 27 meeting.
The board had approved the return during an earlier board meeting but had not set a confirmed time for the return of 10-athlete cohort groups to work on conditioning exercises with individual gear and a lack of shared equipment.
The restriction also meant no sports practice or contact between athletes, but merely conditioning exercises to get athletes into shape for the potential of future practices.
Irving reminded meeting attendees that Monterey County is in the most restrictive purple tier, and that the Gonzales area has one of the highest case rates in the county when evaluated by zip code.
“There seems to be a slice of the valley that is being affected to a greater extent than other areas,” Irving said. “It is something that continues to affect the district’s ability to consider moving forward, and asking for a school waiver. It also informs the district’s conversations around the reality and the timeline related to coming back.”
The academic year began Aug. 11 for Gonzales, which has been without any type of sports program activity due to Covid-19 restrictions. Most California schools are awaiting a Dec. 14 decision by California Interscholastic Federation on whether high school league sports can be implemented. In the meantime, Gonzales school officials have begun planning for conditioning.
“I want to clarify the board did not approve a return to sports,” Irving said. “We were moving ahead with the small group cohort guidance of the state to bring back small groups of our athletes. There are two reasons behind that. One is I am honoring my word to our student athletes and coaches that if in fact other secondary districts started to open up for conditioning, Gonzales would not be left behind.” She added the second part was that “we’ve already started to bring small cohorts back.”
The district began small group returns with the cohort program for students in need, and then expanded to the GPA 4.0 students for the Gonzales Preparatory Academy, which serves more than 120 students.
One logistical hurdle for the return of athletes is their own performance while in state-mandated distance learning.
“Whether or not in a virtual world or a live world, students who participate in sports are expected to meet a minimum GPA as well as minimum attendance requirements,” Irving said.
She also shared data on grades, including that of 34 cross country athletes, six of whom are ineligible due to grades. Of the football program’s 63 athletes, 17 are academically ineligible. Among the volleyball team, none have grades low enough to affect their eligibility.
However, in those teams’ 28, 46 and 28 respective eligible students, the high school is still determining if they’ve met attendance eligibility requirements.
“The board has heard from our teachers that it’s been extremely difficult to keep students engaged and some students have chosen to be absent versus attending class,” Irving said. “That unfortunately will play against them if they’re a student athlete.”
As Gonzales moves ahead with conditioning for athletes, Irving said the district will continue to keep all state and county guidelines in mind. She noted the importance of following guidelines not only for safety, but also to stay in line with parameters provided by the district’s insurance company.