County Executive, School Superintendents React to State Decree on High-Risk Winter Sports

Local Officials Agree NYS Barriers Difficult to Overcome

A call took place Jan. 26, 2020 between Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr., Director of Public Health Daniel Gilmore and local School Superintendents to discuss the issues surrounding high-risk winter sports.

The discussion led to the identification of barriers to participate in high-risk winter sports at this time for many districts. The State Department of Education, State Department of Health and the Governor’s Office have created a system where contradictions and inconsistencies in participation and approval of high-risk sports is insurmountable for many districts.

“The process New York State has created, mandated and thrusted upon counties and local school districts is loaded with contradictions and requirements creating confusion,” Picente said. “I implore the state to get in the game and create guidance that would even begin to allow this type of activity.”

“High-risk activity of any kind is ill-advised during this crucial point of the pandemic,” Gilmore said. “Those considering doing so, should proceed with extreme caution.”

As a result of Tuesday’s call, the following was concluded by Picente, Gilmore and these superintendents:

  • James Plows Jr., Brookfield Central Schools
  • Dr. Steve Grimm, Clinton Central School District
  • Jason Evangelist, Holland Patent Central School District
  • Robert Nole, New Hartford Central Schools
  • Dr. Joanne Shelmidine, New York Mills Union Free School District
  • Timothy J. Gaffney, Oriskany Central School District
  • Timothy Jenny, Remsen Central School District
  • Ronald Wheelock, Sauquoit Valley Central Schools
  • Bruce Karam, Utica City School District
  • Dr. Jennifer Spring, Waterville Central School District
  • Rocco Migliori, Westmoreland Central School
  • Dr. Brian Bellair, Whitesboro Central School District

“The timeline and guidance to submit a plan to local health departments is too compressed and lacking in detail to be completed, leaving no time for school districts to properly plan while giving no direction to local health departments on what details need to be included in a school district’s plan for approval.

Contradictions in the state’s high-risk sport guidance and education guidance is evident. In-school physical education guidance says children should be 12 feet apart at all times, yet high-risk sports involve close contact.

Further, New York State is requiring the use of data related to new variants of COVID-19 in school districts’ communities even though the Oneida County Health Department and most local health departments have no way of collecting or obtaining that information.

Meanwhile, by definition, indoor, high-risk sports are inherently more likely to cause the spread of the virus at a crucial time where our collective focus should be on vaccination and prevention efforts while accomplishing the overall goal of returning students to classrooms.”