Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she is an advocate for high school sports being played this fall, despite the county council of superintendents’ unanimous vote to postpone them until next year.
“I supported Governor Cuomo’s science-based guidance allowing the resumption of high school sports, and I believe it’s vital that our independent school districts implement plans to safely get student athletes back on the field this fall,” Curran said in a statement Tuesday night.
The council of superintendents voted 7-0 to postpone high school sports until the end of the calendar year, with the intention of condensing all three sports seasons between January and June, officials said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he would permit “lower-risk” high school sports to be played. Those included cross-country running, soccer, tennis, swimming and field hockey.
“These are all value judgments that we are making and the balance of the judgment is always the same: Increase the activity to the rate of normalcy as quick as possible,” Cuomo said on Aug. 26. “… on the other side of the scale, don’t let the infection rate get above 1% and keep the virus at a manageable level. That has always been the balance.”
Cuomo said full-contact sports such as football, wrestling and rugby were considered too high-risk to be played at this time, along with volleyball, according to the governor’s website.
Pat Pizzarelli, executive director for Section VIII, which oversees high school athletics throughout the county, agreed with the unanimous vote to pause sports for the remainder of 2020.
“It’s just not the time to allow kids to play sports,” Pizzarelli said. “We are still learning about this virus and its effects, short- and long-term. The science behind it continues to uncover scary truths, especially the potential for heart ailments and long-term heart damage for kids.”
Mineola School Superintendent Michael Nagler said at a Board of Education meeting last Thursday that he believes schools should be able to hold sporting events.
“I was not polled, I did not vote and if I had, it would not have been unanimous,” Nagler said. “I think Section VIII was a bit premature.”
Nagler said he understands the concerns about playing fall sports as COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States, but pointed out that it may be better to have students play sports outdoors than hold gym classes indoors with everyone spaced 12 feet apart, as stated in the district’s reopening plan.
“Moving forward, I am an advocate for playing sports in the fall,” Nagler said.
Catholic high schools in the county, according to officials, have met regularly each week throughout the summer and continue to explore their options. The Diocese of Rockville Centre principals board will make the final decision, according to officials.
Efforts to reach a member of the board for comment were unavailing.
Jericho’s superintendent of schools, Hank Grishman, said the unknown risks that the virus presents take precedence over high school sports being played in 2020.
“This decision comes from an abundance of caution and health and safety for our students,” Grishman said. “No matter what procedures are put in place, it’s just not safe to return to sports. There’s still too many unknowns with the virus. In my 50-year career in education, nothing holds a candle to this. It’s all a bad dream.”
Curran touted the importance of sports for young people and said she will continue to advocate for a return to sports that prioritizes the safety and well-being of all affected stakeholders.
“Since we’ve reopened I’ve strongly advocated for the resumption of organized sports because of its importance to the health and well-being of our youth,” Curran said. “I’ll continue to communicate with all stakeholders to work towards a sensible solution that puts safety first.”