Calaveras High School put a hold on its annual homecoming festivities this week after three of the school’s athletic teams were told to quarantine due to “a significant number of” positive COVID-19 tests.
In a message to students, parents and community members on Monday afternoon, September 13, Calaveras High School Principal Amy Hasselwander announced that Homecoming Week, scheduled to be held from September 13 to September 17, was being postponed to the week of October 18.
The postponement came one day after another message sent out to the community from the Calaveras Unified School District announced that all members of the Calaveras High varsity and JV football teams, and JV volleyball team – including all players, coaches and their siblings – must stay home from school and quarantine after “a significant number of players” tested positive for COVID-19.
The decision to postpone this week’s homecoming festivities wasn’t an easy one for district officials to make due to a lack of good alternatives. Homecoming week, which includes themed dress-up days throughout the week, traditionally culminates with an afternoon rally in downtown San Andreas on Friday afternoon and a home football game on Friday night.
The Calaveras football team was scheduled to host Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento this Friday night, September 17 for its homecoming game and only has two other home games remaining on its schedule – October 8 vs. Sonora and October 15 vs. Sonora – both of which fall during CUSD’s two-week fall break, when students are not on campus.
Ultimately, the decision was made to move Homecoming Week to the week of October 18, which will culminate with an away football game at Summerville High School on Friday, October 22 in Tuolumne. While not having a home football game to cap Homecoming Week is not ideal, the reschedule will give those students who are currently in quarantine an opportunity to take part in the homecoming festivities.
“It was deemed to be the best option out of a list of bad options,” CUSD Superintendent Mark Campbell said Monday afternoon. “There are still many details to be worked out.”
The positive tests that forced both CHS football teams and the JV volleyball team to quarantine were the result of now-mandatory weekly testing being required in both Amador and Calaveras counties for all extracurricular activity participants, regardless of age or vaccine status. The Amador and Calaveras public health departments both released updated guidance for youth sports this week mandating the testing, which was previously only recommended, as an alternative to cancelling sports altogether (the full updated youth sports guidance is posted with the online version of this article at ledger.news).
“We have seen a dramatic rise in students being quarantined or in isolation because they tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to someone who was,” said Dr. René Ramirez, Calaveras County Health Officer.
“The county’s low vaccination rate coupled with mask refusal leaves children more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. This order outlines what schools must adhere to so that we prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in our schools and communities and to avoid cancellation of sports altogether.”
Amador and Argonaut high schools are both celebrating homecoming this week with festivities including a dance at each school. In addition to testing for all fall sports participants, any Amador or Argonaut student wanting to attend their school’s homecoming dance this week was also being required to be tested for COVID this week. All testing is provided by the schools and being administered by school staff.
“We began testing all athletes, regardless of vaccination status this week, and we are testing all students at both high schools planning to attend the homecoming dances on Saturday night,” Amador County Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Torie Gibson said. “This has caused a huge strain on staff, and the availability of test kits could become a problem in the coming week, but we are taking it all in stride one week at a time knowing things are forever changing.”
The order for all members of the CHS football teams and JV volleyball team to quarantine, even those who tested negative, was a source of confusion and frustration throughout the community.
On Monday evening, CUSD officials sent out another community announcement to clarify who needed to quarantine and who would be allowed to return to school. The message stated that all JV and varsity football team members needed to remain in quarantine until September 19 unless they are fully vaccinated and have no COVID symptoms; or have proof of a positive COVID test in the past 90 days and have no COVID symptoms.
All JV volleyball players who did not test positive were allowed to return to school on Tuesday, September 14 because, as explained by CUSD Health Services Coordinator Belinda Brager, “contact tracing has been completed (and) no close contacts have been identified.”
Brager said that contact tracing was being handled by the Calaveras Public Health Department and ongoing.