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Athletic directors: KHSD clears way for athletes in certain outdoor sports to return to campus Monday, proposes games only against district schools

Although the specifics and details have not been finalized, the Kern High School District is taking steps toward returning student-athletes who participate in outdoor sports to campuses starting as early as Monday.

Football and cross country teams have been given clearance by the KHSD to participate in non-contact activities next week, with boys and girls soccer slated to return March 8. Baseball, softball, golf, tennis, swimming and diving, and track and field are expected to start conditioning workouts March 15.

Details on the continued attempt to return to athletics were provided to respective schools on Monday from the district.

Attempts to reach district administration on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

“We still don’t have answers to a large percentage of our questions, but … we’re all excited to be back and to be angling forward toward what looks like a return to at least some sports,” North High Athletic Director A.J. Shearon said.

There is currently no word on when or if indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball or wrestling will be able to participate this season.

Additionally, schools will be able to move to the next stage in the process — full-contact practices and games — only after the county's COVID-19 case count rate falls to 14 in 100,000 residents.

In the hopes that this best-case scenario comes to pass, the district continues to work through its options. The hope is to complete five or six games this season, according to athletic directors.

They added that to help streamline the process and keep better continuity, the KHSD notified district administrators Monday that a plan to create schedules should only include the district's 18 member schools: Arvin, Bakersfield High, Centennial, East, Foothill, Frontier, Golden Valley, Highland, Independence, Kern Valley, Liberty, Mira Monte, North, Ridgeview, Shafter, South, Stockdale and West.

“It’s just been a weird situation (conducting business during the COVID-19 pandemic),” Liberty Athletic Director Tim Davis said.  "I’ve been doing this for 17 years and it’s like starting over sometimes (trying to do things differently) … but it feels good that we’re going to have these kids back on campus in some form in the next week or so."

Implementing that newly-proposed KHSD school schedule would mean temporarily creating three unofficial “leagues” featuring six teams each. The specifics of who is in what league has not been finalized.

“Things have been changing by the hour,” Davis said. “There’s some things out there that we just don’t know about yet. The principals have met three times this week already, so I can talk about what I know, but it’s just constantly changing.”

The lumping of the teams cannot be categorized as official leagues, according to Central Section Commissioner Ryan Tos, because there are certain guidelines that must be followed to adjust leagues mandated by CIF.

“We’ve been meeting the entire year, going through a bunch of different scenarios,” Stockdale Athletic Director Justin Roberts said. “There’s a lot of unknowns about the adjustments we’re going to have to make. That seems to be ongoing with things changing constantly. But it’s easy to look at a problem and say that’s too hard and we’re not going to do it. I think as a group we’re looking at this as a challenge and figuring out how can we do it quickly and safely to get these student-athletes back on the field or something to look forward to.”

Although the proposed scheduling format will likely benefit KHSD’s member schools, it does create some challenges for local schools not in the district. Garces, Bakersfield Christian, Wasco, Taft, Tehachapi, McFarland, Delano, Kennedy and Chavez would have to find other opponents when scheduling their events.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t be in our original league,” said BCHS Athletic Director Blake Van Der Schaaf of the Eagles, who are a member of the South Yosemite League that features Ridgeview, Golden Valley, Tehachapi, West and Independence. “For our kids and for our teams, it would have made it much easier. And just to compete again in our league would have been nice. But we’re working it through. We’re coming up with a contingency plan for non-football sports and setting up a football schedule right now with schools we can find on a time frame we think is safe for our kids to come back.”