GONZALES — With Monterey County’s schools on shutdown and school sports planning a delayed start in December or January, Gonzales Unified School District on Aug. 21 announced to coaches that middle and high school sports were suspended for the year.
Superintendent Yvette Irving contacted coaches that day to inform them of the decision, which so far affects coaches for fall and winter sports.
The district held a Zoom information meeting on Aug. 24, during which Irving opened by introducing Grant Martin as the high school’s new athletic director. She then communicated the reasoning behind the call made to coaches and took questions from the community members present in the virtual meeting.
“I personally called coaches in particular to express my gratitude for what they have done,” Irving said. “As an educator, we understand the importance of sports, athletics, as well as all extracurricular activities.”
Irving went on to explain, “This week, human resources is mailing out notification to coaches that while we don’t have work for them, we also will be unable to compensate them.”
Irving said no one has been laid off.
Art Berlanga, football coach at Gonzales High School, clarified on Aug. 22 through a Facebook post that he had not been fired, and he and his staff were not leaving. He explained the 2020 seasons had been officially canceled.
This is a shift from earlier league announcements that practices would begin no earlier than late December and games no sooner than January for a delayed fall sports season.
Irving discussed the possible return to sports, and explained that if sports programs come back, they will return with the funding they had previously been approved for in February 2020 before the pandemic. She also clarified repeatedly that the timetable for sports returning issued by California Interscholastic Federation was only a proposed schedule.
“We will return when we have been given permission from the health authorities,” Irving said. “With the season modification, once we start coming back, the coaches season listed as a coach will be adjusted accordingly.”
Coaches and athletes were ready for that delayed start and a congested practice and game schedule with three seasons packed into the time frame of less than two full seasons. However, the official cancellation of Gonzales’ participation in the fall season means coaches will not receive their stipend during the fall 2020 months.
Irving said this was not a complete cancellation of sports, even for those notified, as the sports program had already been budgeted and the district would be able to pay coach stipends upon their returning to work, if and when the CIF league and health officials from the county and state cleared area schools for a return to sports.
The district issued information saying the duration of shelter-in-place orders from the state is unknown and thus the duration of sports suspension is unknown. If the entire 2020-21 schedule is canceled, it will mean coaches have gone through a one-year gap in employment and would need to re-apply for their positions when sports eventually returned.
“As of right now, sports remain on pause until all safety factors can be addressed,” Irving said. “Ours is not giving up on athletics, but ours is contending with the situation at hand.”
Some community members in the virtual meeting brought up their concerns over retaliation as being a cause for cancellation decisions.
Irving said she didn’t know what could cause such a concern.
“We as a district abide by HR as well as state and federal guidelines and so there is a process for employees that may feel that there was retaliation,” Irving said.