ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Governor Andrew Cuomo says it’s up to school superintendents to decide if fall sports should resume in September. However, the educators are asking Cuomo to formally delay the start until January.
In a letter sent to Cuomo Wednesday (see the full letter at the bottom of this story), the New York State Council of School Superintendents urges Cuomo “to reconsider the decision to allow school athletics to begin September 21.”
The group asks the governor to delay the start until January 1, 2021.
The council said it’s concerned sports could jeopardize in-person learning for students.
“We have struggled to reconcile why students in physical education classes must be 12 feet apart per reopening guidance, yet contact athletics and other activities that regularly bring athletes into close proximity are deemed safe at this time,” the council said in its letter. “Additionally, the logistical challenges of school athletics during the pandemic and the initial re-opening of school such as transportation, locker rooms, spectators, personnel, remote learners, A/B hybrid scheduling, and other issues are too significant to undertake at this time without detracting from the primary goal of bringing students back to school safely.”
Asked about the council’s letter Thursday, Cuomo said it was never mandatory for schools to resume athletics on September 21; the state simply issued guidance for school sports.
“It’s up to the individual school districts to determine if they want to go ahead with the sports program. Different school districts are making different decisions and that’s fine. It’s up to them,” said Cuomo.
Thomas Burns, St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES superintendent, said a majority of his districts have health, safety and logistics concerns about a fall sports season.
Some of the specific questions they have are:
- How many buses will be needed for sports teams to travel?
- How will social distancing work in locker rooms?
- How will the locker rooms be cleaned and sanitized properly?
- Will more staff be needed?
Meanwhile, schools across New York face a 20 percent hold-back in state aid.
“We really haven’t taken a formal position on this yet. We were actually hoping that the letter sent from the statewide council of school superintendents to the governor - you know, we were hoping that his office, you know, might need some time to consider that and there may be some response from his office,” said Burns.
He said district superintendents also want to hear from interscholastic sports sections across the state.
We spoke with a couple of coaches from a couple of different fall sports since coaches, of course, will have to implement what protocols are needed.
Phil Jenner is the varsity boys soccer coach at General Brown. He’s expecting a good year from his Lions team.
Jessica Lister of the Watertown cross country team has an up and coming Cyclones program.
Both expressed their feelings about starting fall sports in this age of COVID-19.
“Sure, everybody’s ready to get started. Everybody’s ready to go on September 21, but at the same time we want everybody to be safe. In order for everybody to be safe, we have to have some guidelines. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything concrete yet that’s going to be able to tell us that we can play safely,” said Jenner.
“I think it’s not so much the kids we have to worry about as the people they’re going to come in contact with that are part of that high risk category - that if they get COVID, it’s going to be harder for them to keep it at bay,” said Lister.