Scheduling dilemma: Nevada Joint Union struggles to find eligible competitors amid varied COVID-19 tiers |

Scheduling dilemma: Nevada Joint Union struggles to find eligible competitors amid varied COVID-19 tiers

“We want our kids back on the court, in the pool, on the field—whatever it might be,” NJUHSD Athletics Director Scott Savoie said.

As the spread of coronavirus in Nevada County slows, high school athletes are poised to reconvene for practices and games this spring.

However, it’s unknown exactly when some those games will start.

Students and parents from the Nevada Joint Union High School District convened Thursday on a zoom call led by Bear River’s Athletic Director Scott Savoie.

“We want our kids back on the court, in the pool, on the field — whatever it might be,” Savoie said. “This has been a roller coaster for everyone.”

Savoie said the process of starting and stopping certain athletics mid-season has been “hair pulling” for coaches, but said he’s committed to students’ health and wellness.

“Basketball and volleyball players were conditioning for quite a while, until a month ago when they were told they couldn’t do it indoors,” Savoie explained, adding that both teams should be able to compete in the Pioneer Valley League games if Nevada County enters the red tier soon.

For Nevada County to enter the red tier of the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system, there can only be four to seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents, or 5-8% positivity, in the community.

The county saw 55 new cases over the weekend.

Savoie said teams’ ability to condition or compete is contingent on where their school district falls tier-wise in the fight against COVID-19.

Although the California Interscholastic Federation gave local leagues scheduling power, practices held inside are prohibited statewide if the school in question is in a purple tier county.

Savoie said school teams are only allowed to compete with those in adjacent counties, which poses particular challenges for Nevada County.

“We really only have Truckee High School,” Savoie said.

Yuba and Placer counties are the only two adjacent counties, and Yuba County’s numbers are still too high to participate in team sports, Savoie said.


Savoie said athlete advocacy groups, largely led by the parents of student athletes, have called for Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider the possibility for games and competitions independent of the current tier system, which is unique to California.

Savoie said he is hopeful because other states with higher case numbers have been able to continue their student athletics programs.

Savoie celebrated the county’s improving case numbers and said he felt as if he witnessed a historic moment when he attended the first cross-country meet of the season on Jan. 30 between seven neighboring counties at Nevada Union.

Savoie said he was grateful for the opportunity to support Spanish teacher and coach Daniel Bussinger last week, which was the first time any Bear River athlete was able to compete since March.

Savoie said there are high school advocacy groups that are fighting for kids.

“I feel like they’re making some headway with Governor Gavin Newsom,” Savoie said, describing a parent-led group called ‘Let Them Play’ making appeals in Sacramento

Savoie said cross-country, golf, tennis, swim, and track and field fall under sports that can continue under the purple tier. Golf and cross-country are underway at Bear River High School, with swim and tennis starting Feb. 10 and 22, respectively.

“Track and field is the only ’purple’ sport we won’t start until after spring break,” Savoie said. “The reason is because cross-country and track and field have a lot in common.”

Savoie said he hopes student-athletes will consider participating in more than one sport given the way the seasons have been delayed and staggered.

Baseball and softball are “red sports” and may start competing after five required days of training once the minimum available ICU capacity is met in the region.

Savoie said soccer, volleyball, water polo and football may begin once Nevada County enters the orange tier. His Excel sheet, shared on the Zoom call, said the start dates for the sports would be determined.

Football is a contact sport, and officials determined that season must end by April 16, regardless of when it begins.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at

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