After a number of public comments calling for the return of “high-risk” sports, the Kingston Board of Education voted 7-2 to allow a number of teams to play shortened seasons.
Sports included and the start of their seasons are as follows: football (March 12), volleyball (March 10), lacrosse and unified basketball (April 19).
Protocols will be in place, including temperature checks for athletes and coaches before practices and games, daily health questionnaires, face shields and additional protection for football and lacrosse. There will be no spectators for indoor sports, while spectators for outdoor games will be limited (two per athlete), spread out, and masked up. Additionally, a Covid-chaperone will be implemented to monitor everyone is being safe and following the implemented measures.
Superintendent Paul Padalino falling infections helped prompt the decision. Speaking on March 3, he said there were six active cases among students and zero active cases among staff and faculty.
“We have no instances of in-school spread, whether it be student to student, adult to student or students to adult,” said Padalino.
Low-risk sports, which resumed on March 1 and include swimming, bowling, gymnastics, indoor track and skiing, have been a success so far. With 150 total participants, there have been zero cases reported among the athletes and coaches. Padalino reported that there have also been no cases with off-season workout and training.
“Based on this, and the overwhelming community sentiment and participation of fall and spring sports will assist us with the growing social emotional and mental health struggles of our students, I recommend the board approve high-risk sports in the Kingston City School District,” said Padalino.
He said while there is indeed risk associated with the decision, “the facts and data indicate it is a low risk,” one he said is worth taking for the students.
Board members Herb Lamb and James Michael voted no because they believe the risk is still too high, with Lamb including “there is no way football can be considered safe for students.”
“We’re requiring students in a classroom to stay six feet apart,” said Lamb. “When you’re playing football, you cannot stay six feet apart.”
Other members of the board said that while they may have been unsure, they felt that it is the right decision and now parents can make the ultimate decision on what is best for their children on allowing them to participate or not.
Padalino said if an athlete or coach tests positive, the same procedures will take place as when a student in the classroom tests positive, which will come with contact tracing and quarantine if needed.
Padalino said the district is also working towards approving other extra-curriculars, like theater. Color guard was approved a couple of weeks ago as well.