Lewis County will be the central hub for Frontier League low- and moderate-risk fall sports in the fall of 2020. While 12 Frontier League schools from Jefferson County and the Sandy Creek School District decided to postpone all their fall sports Wednesday, the league’s Lewis County schools of Beaver River, Lowville, South Lewis and Copenhagen will play games this fall.
The only other school not accounted for is Immaculate Heart. Frontier League assistant director Scott Connell is unsure whether IHC, a Jefferson County school, can participate in athletics in Lewis County at this time.
According to the state department of health, “travel (for low and moderate-risk sports) for practice or play is prohibited outside of the school’s region or contiguous regions/ counties until October 19, 2020.”
IHC athletic director Tom O’Brien could not be reached for comment.
Schools made an official decision to play interscholastic sports less than a week before Sept. 21, the official start date of the fall season.
“We’re back in school, all kids in school, five days a week, we’re social distancing in all of our classes, we’re eating lunch in our classrooms, we’re following all of guidelines from public health from the state and from the Center For Disease Control, we’re following all of those guidelines in school and we’re going to do the same thing on the athletic field,” said Connell, also Copenhagen’s superintendent. “They have guidelines, too, if you can’t have six feet of separation, then you have to mask. ... We’re going to mask all of our kids and it wasn’t a very difficult decision for the Lewis County group.”
Lewis County has one of the lowest infection rates in the state with only 50 total confirmed cases acording to the state department of health. Jefferson County has recorded 156.
Lowville also will require all of its players to wear masks. To avoid irritation from wearing a mask in competition, the “Return to Interscholastic Athletics” guide, that was released by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, requires a hydration/mask break to be taken 20 minutes into the game. The players will remain on the playing surface during that time.
When practice begins Monday, participating schools will start slowly. Practices at Lowville, for instance, may look smaller than usual, because for the first two weeks, only students conducting in-person learning can participate in practice on that day.
“This will be the protocol for the first two weeks so that we can try and keep students in their cohorts,” Lowville superintendent, Rebecca Dunckel-King said in an email to the Times. “After two weeks, we will evaluate the health and safety of our district as a whole and at the county level. If we are in a good place, we will begin practices more frequently for varsity and perhaps JV. Modified will stay on two days a week all season.”
Participating Frontier League schools are taking these measures to ensure that COVID-19 guidance on the athletic field doesn’t contradict COVID-19 guidance in the classroom.
The Frontier League executive committee and the Lewis County athletic directors will meet Thursday to discuss a schedule and the next steps for the league this fall.
“It’s just a matter of getting kids out, they’ve done nothing interscholastically since March,” Connell said. “I know a lot of them have played in clubs and have done things, but nothing with the school, so it’s just a chance to get out and play, get as many games in as we can safely and we’re going to start slow.”
Like the NYSPHSAA and Section 3, the Frontier League will not hold a playoff tournament for any of its sports, competition this fall will be regular season only.
“We don’t want to jump in too quick, I would guess the 9th or 13th of October will be our first game,” Connell said. “We talked about not playing a lot early and then if you play a game the first week and things look good, you start adding, if things don’t (look good) then we’ll back off. We’re just going to be really cautious.”
With four teams participating in soccer, the Frontier League hopes to play at least six games where schools would play each other twice. Connell hopes the season could end around the second week of November, but that is contingent on the weather.
While all four schools will be participating in boys and girls soccer, only Lowville, Beaver River and South Lewis will participate in swimming; only Lowville, Beaver River and Copenhagen will participate in tennis; and only South Lewis and Beaver River participate in cross country.