Board approves winter sports; season begins Monday, Feb. 1

Parents and guardians of Fayetteville-Manlius School District student-athletes will have the option of allowing their children to participate in several winter sports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently cleared to begin.

The F-M Board of Education met Saturday, Jan. 30, and approved the following sports seasons to begin Monday, Feb 1:

  • Basketball
  • Cheerleading
  • Ice hockey

Students must register through Family ID to participate. 

“We are excited to give our students opportunities to participate in these activities, which we know have proven physical, mental and social-emotional benefits, but we do recognize that any time people gather together, there is a risk of COVID-19 transmission,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “We will have a number of health and safety measures in place from the state, county and our local athletic conference, but ultimately, the decision on whether students participate on an interscholastic sports team is up to students’ parents and guardians.” 

Precautions include: 

  • Developing sport-specific preparedness plans, which were approved by the school physician on Friday, Jan. 29;
  • Weekly COVID-19 testing for athletes and coaches; 
  • Mask wearing at all times with mask breaks allowed;
  • Only scheduling contests with districts that are also conducting COVID-19 testing of athletes and coaches; and
  • Staggering practice and game times to avoid crowding and congestion when participants, referees/officials and spectators are arriving, playing and leaving.

“We’re going to evaluate our procedures each and every day,” said Scott Sugar, F-M’s director of athletics and physical education. “We’re going to make sure we are doing everything we can for the safety of our kids.”

Sugar held a meeting with coaches on Jan. 27 to review the safety precautions so that coaches are prepared for the seasons to begin Feb. 1. He plans to hold a similar meeting with students and parents Sunday, Jan. 31.

To minimize the number of people gathering at athletic events, the district is following the lead of the Salt City Athletic Conference, to which F-M belongs, and will not allow spectators at athletic contests. That could change in the future depending on the circumstances, but in the meantime, the athletics department is working with the district’s technology department to live stream events so students’ families will be able to watch competitions. 

Cuomo surprised athletic directors and district officials statewide when he announced on Jan. 22 that because the spread of COVID-19 is on the decline, school districts may proceed with sports that the state had deemed “high-risk.” However, Cuomo left it up to local health departments to determine whether they would allow the seasons to take place.

On Jan. 28, the Onondaga County Health Department issued a health advisory to school districts within the county stating that each district’s board of education must approve the district’s participation in each higher-risk sport, which is what prompted the board to hold the special meeting Jan. 30. 

Tice said he sees the approval of these sports activities as baby steps toward some form of normalcy for students and opens the door for more extracurriculars, such as theatrical productions and concerts, and eventually, more in-person instructional time. 

“We are having those conversations behind the scenes,” Tice said.