As COVID-19 cases continue to drop in Santa Barbara, strict policies have begun to loosen throughout our city, most noticeably in schools in Santa Barbara county. New debates are arising in high schools on whether we should go back to school with a hybrid learning schedule or stay in online learning until it becomes even safer for students and staff to go back to school. The current plan is to go to a hybrid model by January. But, until then, we will stay in online learning. There is one new update that arose in all high schools, specifically Santa Barbara High School; cohort sizes for sports teams have increased and high school sports teams are now allowed to use individual balls in their practices.
This is a part of phase two in the Santa Barbara district’s return-to-school plan. Although school may not be returning to campus, fall sports have been on campus and have been practicing for the past two months in what was known as phase one. Phase one was the first phase in bringing high school sports back in Santa Barbara high schools. It consisted of practices of small cohorts and social distancing. The practices were mainly conditioning for the athletes, and there was no contact with the players or staff. There were and still are only five sports practicing: the fall season sports (football, volleyball, water polo, cross country, and cheer), with a total of 400 students.
But now we have entered phase two of returning to full contact in sports, in which high school sports teams are allowed to practice in bigger cohorts and each player is now allowed to practice with a ball. This means that practices for the selected fall sports are now allowed to practice in bigger groups among each other, and they are allowed to have more coaching with them as they practice. This addition will increase the number of people on campus from 400 to 800 athletes and coaches in total. But the more major concept that was added in this phase two that is different from phase one is that now all athletes are allowed to use their ball in practice if, of course, their sport uses a ball. But there is one important detail that the district mentions many times to all high school sports teams: players can not share or give the ball to anyone else as practices are still non-contact. But this is a big deal because players are now able to work out and hone their skills now that they can use some equipment at practice. The rules are still strict on social distancing and remaining contact-free within players and coaching staff, but it is a big improvement for all high school sports in Santa Barbara County.
It is unknown what phase three will be for high school sports, but it will most likely allow a little bit of contact for athletes and the sharing of most equipment. This is still unknown and has yet to be confirmed. There has also been talk among the district about allowing some selected spring sports to practice in the next couple of weeks. These sports would also have to go through the process of the phases, starting with no contact or equipment, but allowing spring sports to practice could be good for those sports to get a head start on their season, which will be happening in the Spring of 2021.
As of now, it is looking hopeful that high school sports will occur, and it is a huge improvement for all Santa Barbara schools. If Coronavirus cases in the county continue to decrease and the school continues to allow more cohorts on campus, in addition to the hybrid model which is planned to be implemented in January, we may be able to experience something a little closer to “normal” than the past few months.