Winter sports safety OK’d

The Massena Central School District’s Board of Education has approved the district’s safety plan for winter sports, but not without some concerns. Hockey and basketball will be the two winter sports that will be offered. Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — The Massena Central School District’s Board of Education has approved the district’s safety plan for winter sports, but not without some concerns.

Athletic Director Gavin Regan outlined several of the adjustments that would need to be made in order for Massena to field boys and girls hockey and varsity and junior varsity basketball teams this winter season.

Wrestling is not included in the winter sports, but has been pushed into what’s termed the “Fall 2” season.

“That will be discussed after winter season if we do get that going because there are a number of challenges we feel about wrestling,” Mr. Regan told board members Thursday night.

A number of requirements were included as part of the district’s plan.

“Section 10, myself and a number of different athletic directors have tried to come up with a plan that’s going to give our athletes the opportunity to participate. But the number one goal is safety for everybody involved when it comes to practice and a game,” he said.

He said the plan addresses specific groups ranging from the athletes and coaches to officials and other game personnel.

Every parent or guardian of an athlete participating in district sports each will be required to sign a Section 10 COVID-19 school activity student permission form, which he said will highlight the risks associated with participating in a high-risk sport. There will be no practices or games if the school is remote learning completely, and game rosters will be limited to 20 team members.

All athletes will need to be screened before practices and games, whether they’re learning in person at school or remotely. Coaches and officials will also be screened.

“At practice, we’re going to have to take the temperatures of our athletes and our coaches when they get to the facility,” Mr. Regan said.

Everyone at the sports venue will be required to wear masks, “and that will be mandatory,” he said. The only time athletes would not need to wear masks would be when they are socially distanced or are hydrating.

“At this point in time, we will not have spectators, per the Section 10 guidelines for winter 2020-21 until they are deemed safe and appropriate,” he said.

For hockey spectators, they’ll be using LiveBarn, which provides live and on-demand broadcasts of amateur and youth sports from venues across the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Regan said they’re working to install cameras in the gymnasium so spectators can watch the games live without being at the venue.

“We put a lot of time and effort into this, and we’re trying to deal with every scenario that we can,” he said.

Still, board Vice President Paul Haggett said, “Basketball has the potential to be a disaster. You’re going to get fouled and your mask is going to be all over the place and you’re going to be spitting on guys and gals. That’s just the way it is, and it’s in a smaller room than an arena.”

Board member Kevin Perretta said he would like to see parents be able to attend games, similar to what they did in the fall. He said, given the size of the arenas, he would like to see a calculation of how many individuals could be put in the stands before reaching the COVID occupancy limit.

“That’s a Section 10 rule. It’s not a rule that the district is going to make unilaterally. We’re trying to minimize the risk. We’re trying to let the students play, and this really is what has been the push area is, to get the kids playing and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Superintendent Patrick Brady said.

With the plan approved, Mr. Regan said their hope is to start practices on Feb. 22. No games will begin before March 1, and the season will wrap up March 31.

Board member Loren Fountaine asked, if one of the players tested positive, would the entire team need to be quarantined.

“Public Health said if we have somebody that tests positive ... they do not segregate by team. So, yes, our team would be quarantined. So would the team we played against,” Mr. Regan said.

Mr. Fountaine also wondered how students would dress for games without access to locker rooms.

“There will be some schools that will not be offering any locker rooms at all. They will have to go to the game dressed on the bus. The only thing they will provide them is an area that’s 6 feet apart. They’ll have their mask on, to put their skates and helmet on. To take it even one step further, there are some schools that will not let you into their facility more than 15 minutes before game time, and have to leave 10 minutes after the game is over,” Mr. Regan said.

Mr. Haggett and Mr. Fountaine also expressed concern that only athletics were being addressed, and not other co-curricular activities for non-athletes.

“I think we as a district need to be consistent. I respect the fact that we support sports. But the music program was also very important to me. If we’re going to say it’s OK for kids to play basketball and hockey, I’d like to see a way we can safely have a musical because we can’t say it’s OK for high-risk sports and then tell them they can’t have a musical. We’re saying it’s OK for them to be that close on the basketball court. How can we say not on stage? That’s not consistent,” Mr. Fountaine said.

“For me, it doesn’t even necessarily end with the musical. That’s something near and dear to my heart for sure. Are there co-curricular activities we could be looking at that provide the mental health aspect for the non-athletes or the kids that are musical? Are we doing robotics? Are we doing a lot of things that are enrichment activities or co-curricular activities that aren’t athletic and don’t have that advocacy group necessarily that’s stepping forward to really encourage officials to let them play?” Mr. Haggett said.

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