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After school sports practice, drills set to return

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After school sports drills are returning to the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, but in a limited, socially distant fashion.

Starting Oct. 5, the five-week high school program will focus on “strictly skill development,” said Athletics Director Eric Caballero. Student athletes will have to practice six or 12 feet apart, depending on the activity, in a mostly individual form.

Over multiple days a week, students will be able to interact with coaches and friends while honing their skills and agility, despite the distance. All activities will be held outdoors.

“In an absolutely ideal world, we’d have the opportunity to provide for moderate sports, but we’re unable to do that,” Caballero said. “If things change, we’ll look into intra-squad stuff.”

Last month, Section VIII, the governing body for Nassau County’s high school athletics, postponed all fall sports until Jan. 4, 2021. Athletes, parents and officials were critical of the decision, which was made only two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued guidance permitting lower-risk high school fall sports, including soccer, tennis, swimming, field hockey and cross-country, to begin practice and play on Sept. 21.

On Sept. 4, the Bellmore-Merrick board of education sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo requesting that individual school districts be allowed to operate high school athletics for the fall season.

“We urge you to reassess your mandates and guidelines with respect to the fall sports season and physical education class requirements,” the letter reads. “As our ultimate concern is the health, emotional and physical well-being of our students, we hope to return to some form of normalcy, including the fall sports season for our students and student-athletes.”

As of yet, no change to Section VIII sports has been made, despite the superintendents’ board issuing a statement that the decision will be reconsidered. “Section VIII is committed to reassess its position prior to the governor’s starting date of Sept. 21,” they wrote. “As always, we will act in what we believe to be in the best interest of the health and safety of all those in our charge.”

On Sept. 9, the Massapequa school district filed a lawsuit against Section VIII, arguing that the decision harms the “mental, emotional and physical well-being of the athletes,” according to Newsday.

If Section VIII’s decision is overturned, “we’ll be able to allow low- to moderate-risk sports,” Caballero said. “We’ll be able to move quickly and alter our plans.”

“For some kids, they lost spring [sports] and now they’re losing fall, and still nothing is guaranteed,” he continued. “To say they’re disappointed would probably be an understatement. If it were up to them, they’d be competing for sure.”