Education Spotlight: Merced Union working to phase sports back in for students

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

Athletics are important for maintaining student involvement throughout the school year. Landon Burke spoke with Merced Union Superintendent Alan Peterson about the district's efforts to phase athletics back in.

Landon: Along with getting your students back into the classroom, you've also made getting athletics back on the field a priority. Talk me through that decision.

Alan: Well, Landon, student involvement drives student achievement. And if you don't have athletics which 45% of our students participate in, and you don't have FFA, and you don't have band and other clubs, students aren't going to come back to school. That's, that's part of the whole child, whole student development process, and that's why they come to school, in many cases. So we have to be able to create somewhat of a normal environment to get 50 or 60 (percent) of our students to come back. And if, if we can't do that, you're going to see those numbers, you know dwindle to 30%, you know, 20%, which is what we saw before Christmas,

Landon: Coaches and teachers have had to get really creative, you know, to adapt to, to make things happen in this new normal. I understand that you guys have had to employ some different approaches, you know to get athletics back in action. I was wondering, could you talk me through some of those?

Alan: Well, the first thing we had to do was agree as superintendents in Merced County that you know we were going to pull away from CIF. Ultimately CIF gave us the option to do that and allowed leagues to disband this year to get in whatever athletic competitions they could at the local level. So we basically created our own Merced County League, and all of our AD's have done great work in setting that up. And we actually had our first cross country scrimmage on Tuesday, and you can feel the excitement in the air at Buhach Colony. It was great to see them out competing for the first time in 11 months, and we look forward to what we call our 'purple sports:' tennis, cross country, swimming, all starting with league competition.

Landon: For athletes, you know, playing on the field or you know running the track, having their loved ones there to support them is huge. Talk to me a little bit about the importance of that.

Alan: You know families are going to do whatever they need to do. For example, on Tuesday, you saw parents and grandparents lined up around the perimeter fence about 100 yards from the actual activity, some with binoculars. So right now, we're not letting them on campus to watch, but as things improve, especially next month, hopefully when Merced County moves into the red. We'll be able to open up, you know, family pod units that are spread out appropriately, and we can allow families to come and watch their athletes compete. That's what we would like to do.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.