Masks will be required for all athletes, coaches and spectators at indoor athletic events at Valencia County schools, regardless of vaccination status. The decision was made by Belen Consolidated Schools Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez and Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Arsenio Romero.

The New Mexico Public Education Department, released mandated masks on July 26 for all students, teachers and visitors in elementary schools in its COVID-19 toolkit.

Both Valencia County school districts made the decision to require masks in all schools regardless of vaccination status following updated information from the Center for Disease Control on Tuesday, July 27.

Los Lunas Schools announced the same day they would require masks for all students, teachers and visitors at all sites. Belen Consolidated Schools made the decision following a board of education meeting on Monday, Aug. 2.

Athletic directors Joshua Grine, of Belen, and Wilson Holland, of Los Lunas, confirmed the decision would apply to athletics as well.

The only indoor sport on the fall calendar is volleyball, but all outdoor sports will be required to wear masks when indoors, such as in the locker room or weight room.

The guidelines released by the New Mexico Activities Association required unvaccinated individuals, be it players, coaches or fans, to wear masks at indoor events.

“Because we have stronger guidelines than the NMAA, the possibility is there that volleyball will travel somewhere that isn’t requiring vaccinated people to wear masks,” Holland said.

“In that instance, our vaccinated players would be able to play without wearing masks. But if that same game was played at Los Lunas or Valencia, everyone would be in masks.”

Romero told the News-Bulletin the district would reevaluate the requirement monthly at the Los Lunas governing committee meeting and update based on the latest information.

Games for the majority of county teams will begin next week, with the first games scheduled to be played on Tuesday, Aug. 17, highlighted by an inter-county matchup between Los Lunas and Valencia in girls soccer.

Out-of-state travel, overnight trips and tournaments, all of which were disallowed during the condensed spring season, are allowed again this fall.

Each school is responsible for any positive cases and rapid response actions which may follow within their teams, regardless of who is hosting the event.

When a student tests positive, they must follow N.M. Department of Health guidance on quarantine, which currently is a period of 10 days, and then be cleared medically before they are allowed to return to practice.

Once a student is cleared, there is a six-stage plan to get an athlete back up to speed before they are allowed to take part in full team activities again.

At a minimum, the re-entry period will last six days from the point when the athlete is medically cleared.

In total, an athlete who tests positive will miss at least 16 days of activities.

Unvaccinated close contacts of someone who tests positive may also be subject to a ten-day quarantine.

In the case of overnight travel, unvaccinated students are only allowed to room with household members.

Athletes are not to share personal athletic equipment, such as clothing, towels or shoes.

Any shared athletic equipment must be disinfected frequently and athletes are not allowed to congregate in the locker room.

Masks are not required for outdoor activities.

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