A cheer squad at a South Bay high school will not be allowed to compete for a national championship because of COVID safety policies in its district.
The Raiders of San Jose's Silver Creek High School have been dominating in state and national competitions for year and qualified for nationals again this past December.
But the East Side Union High School District said the cheer squad will not be able to compete in the competition being held in Las Vegas due to its policy of no overnight trips or out-of-state trips are allowed because of the pandemic.
"We're practicing all these months -- working, conditioning extremely hard -- and it gets taken away with just a snap of a finger," said Joy, Silver Creek High School's cheer captain. "It just hurts."
The squad initially challenged the policy, pointing out that as a few days ago other South Bay schools were going to the competition. But on Tuesday, NBC Bay Area learned that the omicron variant surge has now forced those other schools to cancel their interstate trips as well, which now means no Bay Area schools will be competing for a national cheer title this year.
"They seemed like it was impossible," parent Tammy Dhanota said. "Too many hurdles and it was just affecting the girls' mental health."
The East Side Union District Superintendent in a statement said he understands their disappointment, but said the surge forced the district to reassess the safety issues and concerns surrounding school trips and activities. (See full district statement at the end of this article.)
"I don't blame the district," Joy said. "I just wish we personally had a heads up."
As a consolation, the high school has offered the cheer team a trip to a state competition in Los Angeles. There is also another state event in Sacramento in a few weeks, plus the CCS competition, but none compare to a chance for a national title.
"I don't know when it's going to get better," Dhanota said. "Seems like every time we open the door, five more doors close."
East Side Union High School provided the following statement on Tuesday:
The current surge in COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County has caused the East Side Union High School District administrative leadership team to reassess safety issues and concerns surrounding school activities. After consideration of student and staff safety issues and in light of current community conditions (including a 7-day positivity rate average of 16.9% in this County), the District is not approving out of state or overnight school-based field trips or competitions at this time.
Currently, not all students are vaccinated, fully vaccinated or have received booster shots. I understand the disappointment felt by this decision by many students and parents, especially as we all try to provide some semblance of normalcy for our students and a return to the high school experience and the activities that are important to them and their personal growth.
The District is taking this precaution, however, for the safety of our students and community and to help us keep our schools open at a time when many other districts are facing increased staffing shortages and student absences. The District appreciates the efforts of all of our staff, students, and community to help us keep our schools open and maintain a safe environment. We continue to monitor local conditions and we look forward to being able to return to providing out of state and overnight school-based field trips and competitions when the conditions improve and are safe.