It’s been a week of back and forth for Long Beach Unified School District high school athletes, but for now they’re back on the field. The LBUSD has gotten the green light from the Long Beach Health Department to restart its voluntary summer conditioning program, according to LBUSD high schools superintendent Jay Camerino.
The high schools were doing the socially distanced conditioning drills starting last Monday, then were shut down on Wednesday. By the end of the week, the LBUSD had the green light to open things back up this week.
“We were always in communication with the Health Department,” said Camerino. “They knew we were starting up. There’s been an uptick in cases in the county and state, and our community saw kids back out on the field. There was a matter of pausing and re-reviewing the protocols.”
Camerino said that just like when the LBUSD did its laptop giveaway, health officials received calls from members of the community who were worried that what they saw was dangerous conduct because they saw a long line, when in fact socially distancing was enforced except for families occupying the same house.
“The kids were so happy to see each other, these are students who haven’t seen each other or had much in-person social interaction for many months,” said Camerino. “The question we had is ‘Why are we closed down if there are pay to play activities happening’ (with club sports)? There’s an equity component to that and it resonated.”
At Poly football practice, coaches were holding four separate workouts each day prior to the shutdown, because of guidelines requiring fewer than 50 students be present at a time. Poly coach Stephen Barbee said he was doing two freshman workouts in the morning and two varsity workouts in the afternoon. He said the extra work of making sure the kids were wearing masks and coaching four practices instead of one was worth it because of the kids’ reaction.
“They were all so happy to see each other and to be out here as part of a team, it was great,” he said.
“For a lot of us this program is a family, and it’s great to be with our family after so many months,” said Poly defensive lineman Donovan Poe. “We’d all rather be here working out than at home by ourselves or just being outside doing nothing.”
Camerino emphasized that the workouts are voluntary and that they’re conditioning, not full practice. Football teams still aren’t permitted to share balls or other equipment, for example. Teams aren’t in the weight room but are instead doing “body weight” workouts including push-ups to substitute.
Camerino said he knows that the district will take social media flak for the changes in plan a few times within a week, but said he wasn’t worried about that.
“We’re worried about what’s best for the kids, and we’re going to follow our city, local health, and the CIF-SS guidelines,” he said. “This whole thing is complicated–you try to do the right thing for each given moment, but you also accept that it changes.”