The New York State Council of School Superintendents issued a letter Wednesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to reconsider a decision he announced Monday that will allow high schools in New York to begin sanctioned athletic activities on Sept. 21.
The letter was sent on the same day one of the state’s 11 sections voted to postpone its high school sports until 2021.
New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Robert Zayas appeared to be caught off guard by the letter when contacted by The Daily Gazette.
“At this point, we are evaluating the correspondence, and we have no comment at this time,” Zayas said. “We are trying to determine what the next steps are.”
Cuomo said Monday that low-risk and medium-risk sports teams could begin practicing on Sept. 21 and play games locally afterward. He also gave the go-ahead for high risk sports to begin practicing on Sept. 21, but that playing games would not be allowed until a future date to be determined.
“After our members saw [Cuomo’s announcement] and digested it, a strong majority agreed [to present the letter],” said Robert N. Lowry Jr., the New York State Council of School Superintendents’ deputy director for advocacy, research and communications. “We were troubled by the announcement and the prospect of trying to bring back sports before we got instruction up and running.”
While a letter could have been sent to Cuomo before his Monday announcement, Lowry said his group was waiting to hear what the announcement entailed.
“We didn’t have an expectation one way or another. The governor has been cautious,” Lowry said. “If someone asked me to bet on what he would come out with, I would have preferred not to make a bet.”
The letter to Cuomo reads, in part: “This is an uncertain time for schools. Our leaders want a successful reopening and are expressing a strong desire to defer all other activities that could endanger the health and safety of students and delay their start in the classroom. Students need to be in school, with their friends and teachers as soon as possible. School leaders need to be focused on this effort and not have their attention diverted to extracurricular activities at this moment. It is our view that school athletics will risk this endeavor and that is not a compromise we believe should be taken.”
Last month, the NYSPHSAA announced that the fall sports season start date would be pushed from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21, that there would be no regional or state competitions in the fall season, and presented a plan that would allow sections to conduct their winter, fall and spring seasons in consecutive order beginning in January. That tentative plan, or Plan B, was backed by state superintendents in their letter to Cuomo.
“We are sympathetic to the students and families that have been hoping and preparing for school athletics this fall,” the letter reads. “We are not currently calling for cancelling all athletics for the school year. We would request a delay in school athletics until January 1. As we approach the new year, we should collaborate with all stakeholders to develop and agree on a plan to consolidate all three athletic seasons into the 2nd semester so that student athletes have an equitable opportunity to participate in the sport of their choice.”
Nassau school superintendents Wednesday morning voted to postpone their high school sports until 2021, according to a Newsday story.