Montgomery County joined Rensselaer County Friday as the only counties in the greater Capital Region that approved “high” risk high school sports to get underway Monday with full-contact practices.
Other local counties, including Saratoga, Schoharie and Fulton, issued guidance on Friday for “high” risk sports – basketball, ice hockey and wrestling – that established return-to-play parameters that make starting traditional practices Monday highly improbable. Among other guidelines, those counties joined with Albany and Schenectady counties in setting a standard that their respective counties need to have a seven-day rolling average of 4% or lower for their novel coronavirus positivity rate to allow for contact practice and competition.
None of the counties within the greater Capital Region currently meet that 4% or lower metric.
Last Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo removed the state limitation on “high” risk sports, giving the counties the authority to determine guidelines for “high” risk sports, which can begin on Monday. All 11 counties with Section II schools weighed in at some point this week, with nine of them opting for some type of limitations that made play starting Monday unlikely. In every county, each school district will still have to approve the “high” risk sport season to begin once allowed.
Montgomery County schools received permission to proceed with “high” risk sports practices, pending local district approval, but will only be able to compete within the county after meeting the required minimum number of practices needed to compete. The five county schools are Amsterdam of the Foothills Council, and Western Athletic Conference members Canajoharie, Fonda-Fultonville, Fort Plain and Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville.
“This is better than expected, but we’re still not out of the woods just yet. We’ll need board approval; we’ll find out Monday,” Amsterdam athletic director Steve Nolan said. “I’m optimistic it will happen because it’s good for kids. It will give kids a chance to play.”
The Montgomery County directive allows traditional practices to begin with scrimmages and games, but that out-of-county competitions would only occur if both counties had met the coronavirus positivity rate guidance level.
Guidelines announced Friday from Fulton, Saratoga and Schoharie counties were virtually identical. All included that their county’s seven-day rolling average of its novel coronavirus positivity rate needed to be at 4% or lower to allow for contact practice and competition.
“Today’s announcement does delay the start of ‘high’ risk winter sports for our schools, but it also gives us some very clear guidelines that we will follow when we finally get the green light to resume with athletics,” Cobleskill-Richmondville superintendent of schools Carl Mummenthey said.
Meanwhile, the Greater Johnstown School District in Fulton County announced that it would not go forward with any “high” risk winter sports seasons. That mirrors a decision the Glens Falls City Schools District made earlier this week.
As of Friday evening, approximately three dozen counties in New York have approved “high” risk sports to resume Feb. 1, including scrimmages and competition.
While Saratoga County will at least temporarily follow the coronavirus positivity rate guidance level, Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett said it’s possible the county’s “high” risk athletes could compete sooner if a “college-style testing program” is adopted for those athletes.
“It would be an option that the individual school districts would have the ability to enter into, in partnership with the county,” Barrett said.
Barrett said the county supervisors would be holding a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the program as an option for all Saratoga County school districts.