VISALIA, Calif. (KSEE) – High school marching bands face an uncertain future in the Visalia Unified School District, according to staff, students and parents. Several VUSD marching band directors say it’s because the district issued new Covid-19 guidelines to teachers on Friday, which included unexpected Covid-19 restrictions on marching band and the performing arts.
The El Diamante High School Marching Band has just completed a two-week music camp in preparation for the upcoming season. Group director Kristen Pallas says it’s a big blow to the program if they can’t practice their routines. Pallas says a restriction on marching bands is not to allow brass and wind instruments to participate in marching exercises due to the risk of the spread of Covid-19 by blowing horns. Pallas says not allowing the whole squad to participate in training could hamper competition.
“We’ve already invested tens of thousands of dollars to write a show,” Pallas said. “The kids just spent two 40 hour weeks working on stuff already.”
From distancing requirements to restrictions on certain instruments, the students in the group don’t know what to do next.
“It was quite surprising since we had two weeks of group camp and this feeling of normalcy,” said Asiane Watson, a junior from El Diamante. “And then it’s kind of like, you can’t do it anymore.”
A spokesperson for Visalia Unified said it was a problem of lack of guidance from public health agencies. VUSD public information officer Kim Batty says it is frustrating that the school is starting and that the district has not received the necessary advice.
“As of Friday, the Visalia Unified School District still had not received updated county guidelines on music, drama or youth sports,” Batty said in a written statement. “A few weeks ago we were told it would be soon.”
Batty says if the marching bands are going to practice formations tighter than six feet, then they can’t play because the instruments vaporize saliva.
“While they (the students) are playing their instruments, they have to be physically six feet away,” Batty said. “The instruments of the choir and the fanfare project saliva on several feet. ”
Batty also said indoor VUSD sports have Covid testing twice a week and no spectators at the moment. She added that outdoor sports have protocols in place but are less restrictive than indoor sports.
As for the parents of students in the neighborhood, they say they want their children to be able to live a fall semester like the rest of their peers.
“We see all of these sports coming back and they have a bit of that piece of normalcy that we all aspire to,” said Asya Guerro, mother of an El Diamante marching band member. “And then our kids are not going to have this.”
Colby Wells is the father of a student with the Redwood High School Marching Band. He says if there are fewer restrictions on outdoor sports, the same should apply to marching band programs.
“It comes down to fairness,” Wells said. “If you have the rest of the students who can do their activities safely outside, why play music? “
Parents, students and staff say they hope the VUSD board will address this issue at the next board meeting and change Covid-19 policies for the marching band and the performing arts .