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School Sports Put On Hold; No Graduation Ceremonies
Students that graduated from Vista High School – commemorated here on the fence outside the school – along with El Portal Middle School and Escalon High School have had their tentative in-person graduation ceremonies planned for later this month canceled due to the rise in coronavirus cases in the county. Marg Jackson/The Times

Escalon’s Section champion volleyball team and the Section and State champion football team will have to wait a while to defend those titles.

And students who earned diplomas in May won’t have the chance for the in-person graduation ceremony they had been hoping for.

The rise in coronavirus cases in California has prompted decisions affecting students, athletes and educators, putting students and teachers back into distance learning mode to start the school year. Additionally, the California Interscholastic Federation, the CIF, announced on Monday, July 20 that there will be just two sports seasons for high school sports in the 2020-21 school year. The ‘fall’ sports season, or Season 1, will feature – for Escalon – football, volleyball and cross country. Practices won’t begin until December.

The ‘Season 2’ or spring season, will feature boys and girls soccer, co-ed tennis, boys and girls wrestling, baseball, softball, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls golf, track and field.

“We all kind of anticipated things getting pushed back to January,” Escalon High School Athletic Director Nate Bartelink said Monday following the CIF announcement. “We thought they might be shortened seasons but the seasons are basically the same length and there are no sports that lost a contact or a match.”

The challenge, Bartelink said, will come not so much with Season 1, where only three sports are planned, but with Season 2, when the school will be trying to juggle schedules and transportation for teams that usually compete over two seasons, winter and spring.

“We are glad to have some clarity but it will be challenging,” Bartelink said. “For us, the fall season will run from late December into April and the spring season will be staggered from late February for some and running into mid-June.”

The CIF also issued a statement Monday, after making the announcement about the change in seasons, which impacts all 10 Sections in the state.

“We are continuously monitoring the directives and guidelines released from the Governor’s Office, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health, and local county health departments and agencies as these directives and guidelines are followed by our member schools/school districts with student health and safety at the forefront,” the statement indicated. “As these guidelines change, CIF Sections may allow for athletic activity to potentially resume under the summer period rules of the local Section.”

The dates released by the CIF for the ‘fall’ season show that cross country and volleyball teams can begin practices Dec. 14, have their first scrimmages on Dec. 22 and volleyball has games beginning Dec. 29; cross country meets can start Dec. 28.

For football, the first practice date is set for Dec. 7, first scrimmage on Dec. 31, first game on Jan. 8, 2021.

Meanwhile, Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Ron Costa confirmed this past week that graduations for Vista High, El Portal Middle School and Escalon High that had been in the planning stages for in person ceremonies later this month, have been canceled.

“Promotion/Graduation will not be able to take place due to Public Health restrictions,” Costa said. “Parents and students have been contacted.”

Costa added that the district is also working on getting all students ready for the distance learning model.

“Devices and curriculum will be distributed prior to school beginning. We are currently working on an alternate plan for school kick-offs so that we can make sure that we are complying with Public Health guidelines,” explained Costa. “Kick-offs will likely take place over several days so that we can minimize the people on campuses.”

More information will be available on the school’s website,, as plans are finalized. The district is currently planning to have the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

The football field at Escalon High School won’t welcome in the crowds on Friday nights this fall; the fall sports season has been pushed back to starting practices in mid-December with games anticipated for football starting in early January, while late December will see competition for volleyball as well as cross country. Marg Jackson/The Times