Whitehall Central School District has approved boys and girls varsity and junior varsity basketball, but not wrestling, as Washington County recently approved high-risk sports.
The county made this decision last Thursday, and superintendent Pat Dee responded the following day with a letter to the community.
“I am very pleased to share that our district has received approval from our medical director to participate,” Dee said in the letter. “Our athletic director Mr. Redmond along with the other basketball coaches will be reaching out to families to begin the process of collecting the necessary paperwork and working with the nurse to obtain the necessary medical releases.”
In an email last Friday, Dee said that there was a decent amount of work that is required by Washington County to allow student-athletes to participate.
For him it was all worth it and then some.
“Every bit of time and energy was worth it tenfold to provide our students with some sense of normalcy,” he said.
The district had to come up with a sport-specific preparedness plan. That plan had to be developed and supported by the district medical director.
In order for a student-athlete to participate, he or she must have medical clearance from their medical doctor or the school medical director. Parents must also agree to fully cooperate with contact tracing and adhere to quarantine orders.
The district must provide both a telephone number and email address to which parents can report to the school violations of COVID protocols.
Dee said that the County Department of Health was not comfortable with districts seeking approval for wrestling, stating that masking and proximity are a significant challenge in wrestling.
He said that the medical director saw wrestling as an “unacceptable risk.”
“While we all want to provide our student body with as many opportunities as possible, we must all provide them with safety in mind,” Dee said.
When the announcement was first made, senior wrestler Spencer Dickinson was in the car with his friend, and he was at a loss for words.
“Yes, we are always in contact with each other in wrestling, but we’re only wrestling for six minutes, maybe less,” he said. “For basketball it’s like 48 minutes of running up and down the court…it’s hard to think that basketball is allowed and wrestling is not.”
His mother, Jen Dickinson, said she is very disappointed not only for her son, but for all of the seniors who are going to miss out the most.
She said that the athletes have felt an “extreme sense of loss.”
“It has been an emotional roller coaster for the seniors,” she said. “Certainly, their parents as well.”
While Dee is pleased that the district has the opportunity to give more students a chance of normalcy, he still wants work done by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make the process of bringing students back to school easier.
Schools are still limited to six-feet social distancing in classrooms, 12-feet during physical education class and chorus, and can only put 22 students on a 65-passenger bus.
“Loosening some of those current requirements only makes sense if we can participate in high-risk sports,” Dee said. “We need all of our students back in classrooms full time. They have all lost enough.”