Dear Niskayuna Families & Colleagues:
The Niskayuna Central School District would like nothing better than to return to a time when our students are able to participate in interscholastic athletics, performing arts and so many other activities that are part of our schools. As you likely know, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that as of Feb. 1, training and competitions for higher-risk sports can take place if permitted by local public health authorities.
This week, Schenectady County Public Health Services, in coordination with many other public health departments in the greater region, released its “Guidance and Requirements for Resumption of Higher-Risk Sports Activities.” As defined by the state, higher-risk sports include wrestling, football, ice hockey, basketball, contact lacrosse, competitive cheer/dance and volleyball.
The county outlined a community COVID-19 metric stipulating that the 7-day rolling average percent positivity in the county must be at or below 4.0%, and, if the 7-day rolling average percent positivity is above 4.0%, then activities must be restricted to individual or distanced group training or organized no/low-contact group training. As of today, our county’s current 7-day positivity average is greater than 4.0%.
The county also defined minimum requirements before any higher-risk activities can resume:
- Each school district’s Board of Education must approve the district/school’s participation in each specific higher-risk sport.
- Each school superintendent/school leader must oversee the creation of a sport-specific preparedness plan, to be approved by the district/school’s medical director, that addresses a variety of specific components to minimize risk of virus transmission.
- Each parent/guardian must sign an informed consent.
- Each student-athlete must have medical clearance from their healthcare provider.
- Each parent/guardian, student-athlete, and school official must agree to fully cooperate with case investigations and contact elicitation and to adhere to isolation and quarantine orders.
- Each district must establish a confidential phone number and email address to allow student-athletes, parents, or others to report concerns.
Our local public health agencies are the experts when it comes to protecting the health and safety of our community, and we have full confidence that they have outlined what is necessary. To meet these requirements and develop an appropriate, comprehensive plan, we have to recognize that it may take some time, perhaps even longer than some want. We are committed to moving methodically and deliberately so that we are making the best decisions and prioritizing the health and safety of all.
With that said, we must acknowledge that if we can take the steps necessary to reduce risk, there are very real physical and mental health benefits to providing more opportunities for our students to get exercise, train and compete. However, this conversation cannot solely be about athletics. We have world-class performing arts in our schools and students who thrive when those activities are part of their school experience. We also intend to find out what we can do, with all appropriate health and safety measures in place, to return to some degree of performing arts, which have been so missed in Niskayuna this year. We will keep you informed as we move forward.
In closing, it’s important to say that there are many strong feelings about these issues in our community. Let’s be kind to each other and understand that while individuals may make different choices and have varying perspectives, we are all part of a community united in wanting what’s best for our kids.
We have said all along that our plan for this year is for health, safety and learning, and as we hope to move forward with more activities for our students, those priorities will not change.
Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools