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School closures include no sports activities

School closures include no sports activities

Ballston Spa, Saratoga, others off until mid-April
School closures include no sports activities
Fonda-Fultonville baseball coach Rick Palumbo was leading pitching drills at Monday's season-starting practice.
Photographer: Erica Miller

The Section II spring sports season was thrown into further disarray Saturday when numerous districts announced that they were closing their schools and postponing extracurricular activities, including all athletic functions through April 19 due to coronavirus concerns.

School districts in other parts of the state announced that they would be doing the same, according to New York State Public High School Athletic Association executive director Robert Zayas.

"We've got entire counties shutting down," Zayas said.

Zayas added that the state winter championships in basketball, ice hockey and bowling are still on hold as he had announced that would be the case Thursday.

"Everything is happening so rapidly, but nothing has changed as far as the postponement [of the state winter championships]," Zayas said. "As things change, our strategy could, too."

Already canceled was the March 27-29 New York State Federation Tournament of Champions basketball event at Fordham University, and the New Balance Indoor Nationals track and field event in New York City that was slated for this weekend.

"It's upsetting," said Schalmont senior Mia D'Ambrosio, the NYSPHSAA 55-meter champion who was slated to run the 200 dash at the national track and field meet. "You train so hard to go to nationals and place and be an All-American. I haven't peaked yet, and I won't be able to blow it all out. This would have been my first time there, and my last time, but I understand."

A cloud of doubt was cast over the spring sports season and state championships that are scheduled afterward with Saturday's decision by numerous districts locally and beyond to shut down their schools and cease extracurricular activities for the next several weeks.

"I don't think we're there yet, but anything is possible," Zayas said. "I've learned in the last 48 hours to try to not predict anything."

Schools were already scheduled to have April 10 off for Good Friday and April 13-17 off for spring break.

The closures announced Saturday included all 31 districts in the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services). They include  Ballston Spa, Galway, Glens Falls, Greenwich, Mechanicville, Saratoga, Schuylerville, South Glens Falls, Stillwater and Waterford-Halfmoon.

"Based on information from the federal and state governments including various flexibilities authorized by our Governor and the NY State Education Department, the Ballston Spa Schools will be closed for students beginning March 16, 2020 through April 20, 2020 in an attempt to slow the growth of the COVID-19 virus and to keep students, staff, and our community as safe and healthy as possible," Ballston Spa superintendent Ken Slentz wrote in an email. "While we are very concerned with the impact that this decision will have on many of our families, we and our regional school district colleagues believe this is in the best long term interest of our entire community."

Several other Section II school districts announced Friday that they would be shutting down for a week or two beginning Monday.

On Friday, Section II executive director Ed Dopp issued an email to all 97 athletic directors informing them that all scrimmages, non-league games and league contests would be suspended through April 19.

"It makes sense," D'Ambrosio said. " You want to keep everyone separated, but that's a long time to not be racing."

Dopp included in his memo that individual school districts would have the option of how they wanted to handle their spring practices that began Monday.  Schenectady and Niskayuna were among the schools that on Friday called off practices for next week with the hope of resuming the following week.

"Everyone understands the magnitude of the situation," Niskayuna baseball coach Chris Bianchi said. "We're all hoping we can play sometime this year."

Bianchi was still picking his varsity team when informed that practices at his school were called off.

"We got caught in the middle," Bianchi said. "It happened so suddenly. We left practice Thursday, got the word from the school Friday and never got to wrap things up."

Schenectady/Mohonasen boys' lacrosse coach Matt Marotta was in a similar scenario.

"Thursday, we had no idea," Marotta said. "We had our drills all set up for Friday, and around 2 [p.m.] we heard there would be no practice. I never had a chance to tell the guys what's going on. I'm hoping to do that."

Marotta said he and his team with 18 seniors is anxious to get back out there.

"I'm in limbo," Marotta said. "I am hoping it's only a week, but I'm hearing some schools are stretching it out, and it could be longer."

Baseball and softball players looking for a place to keep sharp next week won't have All Stars Academy as a source. The facility in Latham announced that it would be closing down for a week beginning Saturday "due to rising concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, and the push to flatten the curve through social distancing."

The ECHL, which includes the Adirondack Thunder, canceled its season Saturday, two days after suspending play.

Reach Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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