The William S. Hart Union High School District governing board voted 3-1 Wednesday night to let athletic conditioning return to district campuses Jan. 27.
During the nearly four-hour meeting, of which the athletic conditioning conversation took up more than an hour, board members debated whether it was safe for student-athletes to begin once again working out in outdoor, group-based, non-contact settings.
Eventually, the board voted to allow teams to return to outdoor-only, no-contact, cohort-based conditioning next week, with proponents citing the importance of athletics in improving both physical and mental health. Board President Cherise Moore emphasized, however, that coaches and players would not be penalized should they decide to not return next week.
Linda Storli, who represents trustee area No. 1, was absent for the vote, having left the meeting early, and James Webb, who represents area No. 4, provided the dissenting vote. Student board member Katie Thanaet, who holds a symbolic vote not ultimately counted in the official tally, sided with Webb, citing her concern not only for the safety of her classmates but also the issue of overfilled hospitals not having enough resources in the event of a serious injury.
“If a student gets injured, there’s sometimes a day’s wait at the E.R.; we have 0% capacity at our ICU,” said Thanaet. “I think it may be a little bit inconsiderate to our hospital staff and local doctors.”
Thanaet added she was against the idea of returning to athletic conditioning due to teammates wanting to hang out both during and after practice.
“If we’re not even able to give access to education to all of our students on a fair platform, to bring in students for athletics before that feels a little misplaced in my opinion,” she said.
Last week, before an official vote on whether to bring back athletics, the board instructed district staff to conduct a survey with school coaches. More than 120 coaches responded to the survey, with 88.1% of them saying they could implement all of the county’s youth sports protocols at practices, and 75.4% said the district should continue athletic cohorts at this time.
The board’s vote Wednesday comes after a protest last week that consisted of parents and students standing in front of the Hart district offices, asking them to bring athletic-conditioning back to campuses. During the protest, Superintendent Mike Kuhlman came out to greet the group and took their picture to display during Wednesday night’s board meeting, which he did.
The board’s vote is also on the heels of the California Interscholastic Foundation announcing on Tuesday that it would be canceling all fall sports championships, but not the individual regular seasons.
As of Thursday, CIF rules stipulate that competitions, meets, races or similar events are authorized only if both teams are located in the same county and the sport is authorized, or teams are located in immediately bordering counties and the sport is authorized in both counties.