Carson High School cheer squad (Courtesy photo)

In accordance with state and local guidelines that cleared the way for a resumption of youth sports, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner this week authorized students aged 13 and older to participate in outdoor competitions.

COVID-19 new-case rates fell low enough in the county last month to allow the resumption of youth competition in sports such as football, basketball, soccer and water polo, at the discretion of school districts and private clubs and leagues.

With LAUSD school campuses still largely closed to in-person instruction, it was uncertain when the district might opt to resume sports competition. The district was already permitting athletic conditioning, but not competition.

“The resumption of school sports is another step in the path to recovery for all in the school community,” Beutner said in a statement.

“After careful consideration, we have also decided to extend participation in sports to allow students to participate in California Interscholastic Federation Season 1 and Season 2 practices and competitions.”

All sports activities will have to be conducted outdoors, with students participation fully voluntary and subject to parental consent. Athletes, coaches and trainers will also have to adhere to health protocols such as masks, protective equipment and social distancing.

According to the LAUSD, weekly COVID testing will be required “for all who are involved in sports.”

The state’s recent guidance for youth sports required weekly testing of all coaches and competitors aged 13 and over in football, rugby and water polo, with the state agreeing to pay the cost for the testing. The LAUSD guidance indicates such testing will be required across all sports.

The district’s announcement allows the resumption of cross country, football, water polo, baseball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming/diving, tennis, track-and-field and cheerleading.

“Allowing students to resume athletic competition is not a decision we made lightly,” Beutner said. “The spread of the virus is still categorized as widespread in Los Angeles County. At the same time, the opportunity for young adults to be with friends and teammates while participating in a sport might help ease the anxiety and isolation many are feeling. And for some, the understanding they need to remain in good academic standing may help motivate them to stay on track in their schoolwork.”

LAUSD has resisted resuming in-person classes, with the teachers’ union demanding that all school staff first be vaccinated, and that campuses remain closed until the county advances to the less-restrictive “red” tier of the state’s economic-reopening roadmap. That could occur by the end of March.

The state’s guidance for youth sports encourages, but does not mandate, vaccinations for athletes, coaches and staff. It also maintains previous guidance limiting spectators to immediate household members, with limits on overall numbers to ensure physical distancing.