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Weeks after some kids returned to the field for youth sports and team practices in Orange County, the county department of education is warning school districts that the state’s health department has not yet permitted them to do so.

The Orange County department of education’s General Counsel Jeffery J. Riel sent out an advisory on Monday to superintendents across the county clarifying state orders regarding youth sports, including high school athletics conditioning activities.

“School districts are well advised not to operate summer youth sports programs at this time. Once statewide guidance is released, we will collectively work with the local public health officer to consider local community conditions when implementing the statewide guidance,” Riel’s letter reads.

On June 15, the Orange County Board of Supervisors released a statement announcing that youth sport practice could once again reopen with distancing and public safety measures in place.

The press release sent out by the County of Orange cited the state’s department of public health’s guidelines on day camps. 

Yet in his letter, Riel warned that those guidelines do not allow for youth sports to resume.

The Orange County Department of Education does not oversee youth sports or athletic programs and it will be up to the school districts to decide whether the practices continue or not. Since the advisory, multiple districts have chosen to shutdown their programs until they receive guidance to restart again.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District has postponed the start of their summer athletics after it was prepared to start up on Monday when the district sent out the letter. The Orange Unified School District announced that their summer athletic programs will provide students with individual training opportunities until further guidance from the state is given.

Anaheim Union High School District announced on social media Monday that their summer athletics program would immediately be ceased.

“Once statewide guidance is released, we will collectively work with the local public health officer to consider local community conditions when implementing the statewide guidance,” reads a post on their Facebook page.

The Tustin Unified School District, one of the first districts that started their summer athletics program in June after the announcement by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, will be suspending the program after Friday July 10.

“We want to give parents enough notice. I know some districts are doing it pretty quick, but we wanted to give them a few days to make preparations,” said Mark Eliot, director of communications and public information for the Tustin Unified School District.

Eliot said he thinks the coaches and students were prepared for the possibility of summer athletics being suspended.

“Everybody understands this is such a fluid situation that changes daily (and) weekly,” Eliot said.

Ian Hanigan, Chief Communications Officer for the County’s department of education, said local districts started to ask questions about whether current state or local health care orders allow school summer sports camps or programs and high school athletics conditioning activities to reopen after reading a Sacramento news article.

“It appeared that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) was saying pretty definitively that youth sports weren’t currently permitted in any county so we were getting those questions,” Hanigan said. “We reached out to them (CDPH) and got an answer that was pretty definitive and inline with what the CBS article said and that’s when we sent out the legal advisory.”

The California Department of Public Health has yet to issue guidelines on reopening youth sports activities and has indicated that guidance would be released in the future.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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