The 2021 high school football season in Kern County has already experienced air-quality delays and COVID-19 cancellations. Friday brought its first set of air-quality cancellations.
The Kern High School District announced late Friday morning that all local school district activities, including football games, would be shut down until 10 a.m. Saturday morning. Within hours, Delano High School and McFarland High School canceled their own games.
Smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires pervaded Bakersfield Friday, turning the sky orange and sending air quality numbers to hazardous levels across much of Kern County, prompting the cancellations.
Stan Greene, director of school support services for the district, said the district knew at least a delay was likely by Thursday afternoon, before the situation worsened.
"You get up in the morning and you see the smoke," he said, "and the reality just kind of hits you."
After speaking with two meteorologists who told him that air quality would reach hazardous levels around 5 p.m., Greene and the district made the call to cancel activities. He said games were close to being canceled due to air quality several times in the past, but that he doesn't remember a football shutdown of this caliber since lightning storms hit the area in 2011.
Greene said KHSD is prepared to take such steps to protect its students' safety if necessary, adding, "God, I hope we don't have anything like this again."
Shafter's game at Taft, where air quality levels have only reached the yellow "moderate" category, was expected to be the sole high school football game played in Kern County Friday night.
The games originally scheduled for Friday, a small group, met a variety of fates. Frontier at North, South at West and Foothill at Bakersfield were canceled with no plans to reschedule. (BHS had previously canceled a game against Chatsworth-Sierra Canyon, then lost its makeup opponent, Ridgeview, to health and safety protocols.)
California City at Mira Monte was rescheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m., at the conclusion of the KHSD moratorium. Kennedy and Arvin's JV game will begin at the same time, meaning varsity will start at about noon per Arvin's Twitter.
It was not immediately clear whether Chavez at McFarland and Wasco at Delano would be rescheduled.
Several road games for Kern County teams were slated to proceed as of Friday afternoon, including Golden Valley at Madera-Matilda Torres, Stockdale at Moorpark and Bakersfield Christian at Tulare Union, with the latter's status still subject to change up until kickoff.