Tupper Lake hopeful for sports as Section X opens door
TUPPER LAKE — School administrators here are optimistic that basketball and hockey, with their high risk of virus transmission, can resume in the next month or two, after recent announcements from New York state and Section X indicating that districts with approved safety plans can restart practices and competitions.
Tupper Lake Central School District Athletics Director Dan Brown said he is nervous but excited to get back to sports after many of them were canceled due to COVID-19.
“When you’re an athletic director, that’s literally what you wake up to do every day, put kids on the court, put them on the field, put them on the ice, put them in a gymnasium,” Brown said. “That’s what you live for. I’m just ecstatic.”
District Superintendent Russ Bartlett said there is a lot to be done to get sports up and running, with such little notice, but that playing basketball in a month or two is feasible. Tupper Lake has traditionally offered indoor track, hockey and basketball.
Brown said hockey will be dependent on the state of the Tupper Lake Civic Center. Indoor track will be more of an intramural sport than an interscholastic one, he said.
“Everyone’s going to need a little bit of time to work out all the details,” Bartlett said. “There was no timeline from the governor at all.”
Bartlett estimated that around March 1, Tupper Lake will be ready to start winter sports.
Brown said the seven school districts in Franklin County — Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, Salmon River, Brushton, Malone, Chateaugay and St. Regis Falls — immediately organized a group text and shared document for their safety plans. All play Section X except Saranac Lake, which plays in Section VII.
Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES Public Information Specialist Jess Collier said FEH BOCES and St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES helped connect the superintendents across the two dozen or so school districts in Section X.
Brown said they have worked from sun-up to well past sundown every day since Tuesday.
He said the first step, developing a safety plan, is 90% of the work. He believes Tupper Lake is in good shape.
Brown said that Section X soccer and cross country track in the fall proved that with a good plan and diligent adherence to it, sports could be done safely.
Brown said as he has contacted student-athletes recently about the yearbook, and they almost always responded with a question about if their sport will be able to start up in the spring.
There will be rules on how sports can continue. If a school closes to in-person education, like Tupper Lake has, sports must follow suit.
Franklin County stipulates that high-risk sports may not start unless the county is below a 4% COVID-19 positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average, and hospital capacity is at 15% or more. Currently, Franklin County is at a 6.8% positivity rate.
On Jan. 22 Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that high-risk winter sports can resume.
In the next week,Section X districts met with BOCES and the state DOH.
On Jan. 29 they announced that Section X districts were not ready to begin. Then Franklin County’s health department approved high-risk winter sports, following similar decisions by Essex and Clinton counties.
Before any practices, training or competitions begin districts must develop safety plans and have those approved by the state DOH and the school’s medical director. The board of education must pass a resolution to adopt the plan, and the plan must be posted to the school’s website.
Districts must fill out an affirmation form on the state DOH website. Random testing must be conducted by the local health department, coaches must be appointed, and athletes must submit an updated medical history.
If a player has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, they will need a cardio clearance from a doctor to play.
The details of the district’s safety plans are expected to be shared as early as next week with final plans to be posted on each district’s website.