For the first time since mid-March, students are back at Half Moon Bay High School. Voluntary summer conditioning for a few fall sports has been going on for more than a week as student-athletes, coaches and the staff adjust to the new reality.
Two weeks ago, school administrators began educating coaches on new policies, and last week was the start of official offseason workouts. Not surprisingly, safety is the priority. To date, the new conditioning programs include football, volleyball and water polo. In addition to consistent equipment sanitation, participants will be grouped in a “pod” capped at a 12-1 ratio of students-to-coach. Each group will remain together for three weeks before practicing with other groups.
The athletic department has six digital thermometers to test students daily as they arrive on campus. Each device is designated to a single coach and the school’s athletic trainer, Taylor Leidheisl. After each coach has his or her temperature taken by Leidheisl, they, in
turn, will record all the participants’ temperatures on a shareable spreadsheet and conduct a survey regarding any symptoms of illness, heart distress and whether anyone is caring for someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If the students answer yes to any questions, they will be sent home.
“This is a national guideline for high school athletics,” Athletic Director Brendan Roth said. “Every high school in the nation that is doing any summer conditioning should be doing this.”
Roth issued a statement regarding the specifics of the new policies. “If a temperature of 100.4 or higher is determined, the individual will be administered a second temperature scan after five minutes,” the statement reads. “If the temperature is still over 100.4, a third temperature scan will be administered after another five-minute break. On the third consecutive temperature reading of 100.4 or higher, the student-athlete is sent home and the parents are contacted by the athletic trainer.”
Over the last week, all participating sports conditioning programs have taken place outside. Students can choose to wear a mask during drills, but physical contact is not allowed, and they must wear a mask when they arrive and leave from campus. There will be no locker room access, and students should also bring their own water bottles and are not allowed to share.
Leidheisl began his position at the high school the day San Mateo County shelter-in-place orders went into effect. He has experience working in hospitals and rehab facilities.
“I know there are certain steps that have to be taken care of,” he said. “This is more as if you were dealing with a professional or collegiate athletic team. This is how you do the screening. Even checking in to practice during flu season. It’s a new concept at the high school and youth level.”
Roth said a lot of time and effort went into these plans, as well as “a high level of collaboration” between the school and San Mateo Union and Sequoia Union high school districts.
“It’s been great thus far,” Roth said. “We’re also really fortunate to have our athletic trainer on scene every day taking temperatures, recording that information and making that information available to our teams at facilities, the district and our admin.”
“I know it takes time to take all these temperatures and ask all these questions,” Leidheisl said. “But we’d rather spend that time on the front end than have an issue on the back end.”