Albuquerque Public Schools Interim Superintendent Scott Elder sounded a confident tone Tuesday that APS athletes will be back in uniform and having competitions later this month.
How long they might be in uniform depends on the season and the sport.
The Public Education Department will notify APS on Wednesday, Elder said, as to whether or not it will accept the in-person learning models submitted by each of the district’s 13 high schools.
“I feel very good that it’s going to be approved,” Elder told the Journal, adding that it had already received conditional approval.
If the PED signs off on the learning model, then fall-sport teams in APS would spend two weeks in a limited pod system starting Monday. That would make them eligible – assuming they meet Department of Health/PED criteria regarding COVID-19 protocols, which encompasses 14 calendar days – to begin full practices on March 22.
“The PED was very clear, they’re not going to waive the 14-day period,” Elder said.
If full practices in APS begin March 22, that would allow the district to compete – admittedly, on an extremely limited basis – in the four fall sports: football, soccer, volleyball and cross country.
Meanwhile, the Los Lunas school board on Tuesday evening voted 4-1 to implement a hybrid model, meaning the village’s two high schools, Valencia and Los Lunas, could also soon jump back into a fall sports calendar if the PED approves their academic plan.
For APS, any football team that transitions to full pads by March 22 could, in theory, play two games: March 26 or 27, and the other April 1-3.
“If we can play two games, we will play two games,” Elder said.
Volleyball and cross country are looking at equally abbreviated schedules, as the fall sports calendar laid out by the New Mexico Activities Association is already very compact due to the coronavirus pandemic.
APS volleyball teams would play several matches from March 24 through approximately April 1. Cross country runners would get at least one meet. Neither sport at this point could be eligible to compete at state.
The only weekend APS could run a cross country meet is March 26 or 27, but those are the dates of the state meet. The NMAA website says the state dates are “subject to change.”
Volleyball’s seeding for state is supposed to take place on March 27, so there is no way for APS to complete a district schedule and get its teams qualified for the postseason, which runs March 29-April 3.
It appears that soccer would be the only one of the four fall sports that would have enough time to get APS teams eligible for the state tournament, and that’s just barely.
If there is any portion of a season, soccer teams would have roughly 10 days to complete a district schedule, as the NMAA will select and seed the playoff teams on April 3. Also in soccer, a district schedule must be completed in order for teams to be eligible to participate in the playoffs.
How APS schools – and now, possibly also Los Lunas and Valencia – would be districted in a sport like soccer is at the discretion of the NMAA, and that depends on how many teams compete. APS would largely be competing against itself in the fall sports.
Also, “there are some teams that may choose to opt out in the fall,” Elder said. “We have been told by some ADs that there may be some teams that have stopped practicing, or don’t want to have a season.”
Winter and spring athletes are perhaps even more giddy with this latest APS development, as an approved learning model would not interfere with their participating in a sport. Opening day for prep basketball, for example, is March 22.
“I’m glad for every kid that gets to play, for every kid that gets to have a taste of it,” Elder said.
The spring-sport athletes in APS missed virtually their entire 2020 seasons as the state began COVID-19 restrictions.
It was not immediately known how many fall sports events Los Lunas or Valencia could successfully stage, if they are approved to play.