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East Meadow School District to pilot program allowing athletes to practice together

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While student athletes in the East Meadow School District will not play competitively against other school teams until at least Jan. 4, Athletic Director Kristi Detor has come up with an alternative that will allow them to practice with teammates and coaches this fall.

On Aug. 26, Section VIII, the governing body for Nassau County high school athletics, postponed all fall sports until January. The plan, which is subject to change, is to fit all three sports seasons in the months from January to June, when, it is hoped, the threat of Covid-19 will have declined.

At a Board of Education meeting on Oct. 14, Detor presented her plan for the district’s Out of Season Intramural Program. The goal, she said, is to allow students to train with their peers and coaches, while adhering to pandemic guidelines.

“In our current time, we truly believe it’s essential to offer a program to provide students an opportunity to interact with each other and their coaches, safely,” she said.

Through the program, which will begin on Oct. 26, student athletes will be separated into two groups that align with their hybrid learning schedules. Those groups will be divided into fall and winter sport sessions, each meeting once a week. And students can practice in one fall and one winter sport session.

All staff and students will have to complete a Covid-19 questionnaire before every practice, and students will be required to have a parent or guardian sign a permission slip to participate. All activities will take place outdoors, and will be canceled in inclement weather. Locker rooms will remain closed.

Students will bring their own personal athletic equipment and water bottles. Shared equipment will be provided by coaches and cleaned in between drills. Activities will be modified so that six feel of social distancing can be maintained, and students will be required to wear masks when that isn’t possible.

Superintendent Kenneth Card Jr. said he supported Detor’s presentation, and described it as a compromise that will benefit the athletes without risking the safety of the rest of the community.

“Kids are engaged in physical activity during P.E.,” Card said. “This is just an additional experience that kids should have, and must have, because if Section VIII and Section XI” — the governing body for Suffolk County high school athletics — “decide on Jan. 4 that we’re going to begin athletic competition, then it would be a little too late for us to even think about conditioning our students.”

The program will be voluntary, and open to all students, whether or not they have been members of school teams in the past. Detor added that student athletes who did not want to take part will not be penalized when interscholastic competition re-sumes.

“This is really going to be about getting them fit, getting them back in action, getting them physically prepared and skill development,” Detor said. “We are so successful right now because I think everyone in our district believes in the health and safety of our students, and that will be carried over into this program as well.”

Eleven students have tested positive across the district’s nine schools since they reopened on Sept. 8, according to the New York State Covid-19 Report Card. There were staggered start dates for full-time instruction on the elementary level, with kindergarten through first-grade students returning on Sept. 8 and second- through fifth-graders, who had been on a hybrid schedule, returning on Oct. 5.

Middle and high school students are still following a hybrid schedule, with no set return date for full-time instruction, which district officials attributed to a lack of space for social distancing.