Section 9 postpones fall 2020 high school sports until March 2021

Section 9 voted today to delay the start of fall sports until March 1, 2021. This came off the heels of the New York State Public School Athletic Administration’s (NYSPSAA) decision to postpone all “high risk” fall sports, including football, cheerleading and volleyball until March 1. Section 9 took matters a step further and pushed all fall sports, even “low risk” athletics like soccer, girls’ field hockey, swimming and tennis to March 1. “The fall season will follow from March to April and the spring season from May through June with exact start dates to be determined,” wrote Section 9 executive director, Gregory Ransom after the 18-person Athletic Council met this morning, September 10. 

He also stated that winter sports would commence on November 30, 2020 and that “on September 21, 2020 off-season workouts may begin with approval by each local school district.  They must follow the rules established by NYSPHSAA for any off-season workout conducted at any time during the school year and the guidelines established by the governor and the State Department of Health.” Those guidelines can be found at https://www.newpaltz.k12.ny.us/cms/lib/NY01000611/Centricity/Domain/26/Return%20To%20Interscholastic%20Athletics%20FINAL%20090420.pdf

Several questions still remain. The first of which is how each individual school district within Section 9 will respond to this resolution. Ultimately, it’s the superintendent of each district that has the final decision and the majority of school districts within Section 9 (Kingston, Highland, Rondout Valley, Saugerties, Onteora and New Paltz) have begun the year remotely, with no children inside the buildings. The New York State Council of Superintendents (NYSCOS) also wrote a letter to Governor Mario Cuomo requesting that he postpone any athletics until at least January 1, 2021 so that they could focus on getting kids back into the schools and not be “distracted,” by any extracurricular activities. 

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The New Paltz School District’s athletic director Greg Warren said that he is “remaining cautiously optimistic” that sports can begin on November 30. “I think that this decision is the reflection of the Section 9 Covid Task Force and was well received,” he said just after the vote was taken and the resolution released. “My first step is to meet with our superintendent and discuss how we will begin organizing things to move forward and begin sports in November.”

Warren did say that in his estimation, the later start dates for fall and spring “give student athletes the opportunity to play in a normal, competitive sports season rather than just being able to ‘practice’ and not hold competitions.” He also believes that it allows them a bit more time “in case the landscape of Covid-19 changes. Hopefully, it will keep changing for the better so we can get back to playing high school sports.”

As to whether or not New Paltz will begin moving forward with “off-season workouts,” as ruled allowable by Section 9, Warren said that he needed to have a conversation with the superintendent first.

Another athletic director in Section 9 who wished to remain off the record, said that starting off-season workouts on September 21 “does not look likely when we can’t even get the kids in the schools!” 

Several schools have said that they plan on going to a hybrid model of schooling, with students attending two days a week, in October.

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