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YUHSD winter athletic programs to begin Dec. 7

Yuma Union High School District winter athletic programs are slated to begin practice on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, administrators announced at Wednesday night’s Governing Board work session.

Competitions for the winter season, which includes basketball, soccer and wrestling, are tentatively scheduled to begin on January 11, 2021.

“We’ve worked to create an accessible opportunity for athletics for all students that is as safe as possible,” Cibola High School Athletic Director Brett Pavey said. “We have mitigation plans in place to not only keep everybody safe, but also identify possible COVID-19 symptoms and make sure there is no spread.”

Mitigation plans include, sport-specific modifications, sanitation of equipment between uses in games and practices, no out-of-state travel, limited in-state travel, masks worn by all adults at all times, cohort groups organized by participation level (varsity, junior varsity, etc.), district-wide protocols to monitor COVID-19 symptoms, and strict protocols for returning to participation following exposure or diagnosis of COVID-19.

“Our kids have been amazing about following protocols,” Kofa High School Athletic Director David King said. “Kids wear masks, and kids social distance on campus. I was tentative when we first came to this plan, but I’ve been absolutely impressed by our students. They’ve really done a great job.”

As part of the AIA mitigation strategy, no spectators will be permitted to attend events until metrics are deemed appropriate in counties across the state.

“We did a lot of great work with parents and athletic directors to allow fans to safely attend our games in the fall season, but for the winter season, at this point, the guidance and direction from the AIA is that we cannot have any fans at any of our sporting events,” YUHSD Associate Superintendent Tim Brienza said. “So, it’s not a Yuma Union High School District decision, it’s an AIA decision. Since we pay dues, and we belong to the AIA, if we allowed fans, it would be a violation and we would be facing sanctions, such as forfeiting games and canceling programs. AIA Executive Director David Hines has been very clear with all of the schools that these are not recommendations, they are directives.”

YUHSD schools are expected to travel to participate in varsity competitions outside of Yuma County on a limited basis with bus safety protocols in place as well as restrictions on rest stops along the route. The decision for varsity-only travel was made, in part, to ensure that programs remain eligible for AIA postseason play.

“In the fall, we were operating with a district-only schedule,” Pavey said. “We wanted to make sure we minimized travel outside of the county and keep the germ cohorts localized. There was also a lot of uncertainty surrounding, not just our travel, but other schools on our schedules. Going with the district-only schedule in the fall, allowed us to maintain schedule integrity, and have those competitions without out-of-town teams cancelling on us. Then, a few weeks after that decision was made, the AIA informed us of some new changes, stating that since we opted out of our original schedules we were postseason ineligible. So, moving into the winter season, we are going to maintain our varsity schedules.”

Full schedules for January and February will be finalized in the coming days and announced next week. Additionally, YUHSD schools will continue to utilize their respective Facebook pages to live stream intermittent home games throughout the season.

“Due to the ever-changing nature of both COVID-19 and the guidance around it, we will continue to be transparent in our work,” YUHSD Superintendent Gina Thompson said. “But we must respond to the various agencies that direct and manage public school work, including the AIA. At times, we may have to pivot without benefit of a public meeting.”

Eric Patten