The Onteora School Board will consider a proposal to resume some sports starting March 1, while higher-risk games such as football will need to wait for further review.
“We have to be able to address challenges of Covid-19 and we have to move forward,” Athletic Director Kim Pilla told trustees at the February 9 meeting.
“We want kids to integrate into having fun again. We want them to be able to enjoy again and to challenge their minds and their bodies,” Pilla said.
With winter nearly behind them, districts are moving on to so-called Fall II sports. Pilla proposed the resumption of field hockey, boys and girls soccer and tennis.
The plan to return to athletics includes stringent requirements for all schools to have rosters of opposing teams. Temperature checks will be done before athletes enter the building for a game.
“There’s contact tracing. There’s lots of work behind the scenes, schools coordinating throughout the day and at night. Kids have to have a pre-screening before they even enter the school,” Pilla said. As of now, there will be no spectators, though Section 9 is in discussions to allow two spectators per player.
Resumption of athletics also raises the issue of transportation. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the district is not required to transport athletes to and from games, but at the same time it cannot discriminate.
“In order to do that with a hybrid situation, we have to provide the opportunity for students who are home to be able to come in,” Pilla said. “We are working on a transportation plan.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has allowed the resumption of sports contingent on county Board of Health and district superintendent approval, leaving one trustee to question the board’s role.
“I’d like to see where it says that the board makes the final decision,” trustee Bennet Ratcliff said. “Did the governor outline that in his order or was it given by some other organization?”
Pilla said it might be a moot point when it comes to football. Onteora could start playing March 12, but given the need to fit in ten practices before the first game, it might not come to the board.
“It would come eventually to you with a decision that’s already been mitigated and fleshed out,” Pilla said.
“Is it right for them to just tell us we have to do this,” countered Ratcliff.
“Does the county Department of Health have the authority to direct us to do this? Does the board have to make this decision or can the superintendent make this decision?”
School board president Laurie Osmond agreed there seems to be a lot of confusion at the government level and “not a willingness to take a stand one way or another.”
The board will seek clarification and revisit the matter at another meeting.