The Manhasset School District will be creating a quasi-bubble for its high-risk winter sports athletes as they return to play this month. The basketball and wrestling teams will be tested every Sunday and athletes will be required to learn remotely during their shortened four week season.
After the initial proposed start date for winter sports in Nassau County went by on Jan. 4 without any games being played, Governor Cuomo stated in late January that high-risk winter sports could resume play and gave local health departments the authority to approve or deny their schools from playing. Nassau County officials gave the OK and administrators in the Manhasset School District worked quickly to formulate a plan that would ensure the safety of their student body and staff, but play their winter sports.
“They didn’t really explain what was different than when they weren’t allowing those high-risk sports, all they said was they could go forward and they would proceed.” Manhasset Superintendent Vincent Butera said. “We had a decision to make as to whether or not to move forward with high-risk sports because the concern for us was for five months, we’ve been telling everyone to follow protocols, social distance and wear masks, and now what we were being told to do was these activities can go forward and what about our protocols? We simply ignore them? We have faculty and staff and students and community who have come to expect that when students and staff come to school, they will have followed protocols. Here’s an example where the kids clearly won’t be able to follow protocols, just given the nature of the athletic competition.”
While some athletes have already opted-out of their winter sport, preferring the hybrid model in place for the Manhasset Secondary School, the majority have decided to play and the school district wanted to give them the chance to do so.
“We also want very much to allow students to have opportunities,” Butera said. “We were sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place where we want to give the opportunities, but we also want to make sure that we can say we’re doing everything possible to keep kids safe and faculty and staff safe. This was really reflected our very best thinking to allow us to accomplish both.”
Athletes who chose to learn remotely will not be missing many school days due to the February break and the hybrid model that ensured only two or three days physically in the classroom per week. For a season that will only go from Feb. 1 to 26, athletes will miss six or seven days in the classroom.
However, the coaches, who are usually teachers or staff members in the school district don’t have the option of working remotely. Wrestling coach Stephon Sair, for example, is also a physical education teacher during the school day. Coaches like Sair will be tested every Sunday, but will still be showing up to teach their classes at the school unlike their players.
“The distinction is in the case of the coach, the coach is able to maintain protocols, social distance and mask,” Butera said. “The players, obviously can’t because the players are wrestling with each other. The coaches, provided that they could maintain the protocols, would certainly be allowed to continue to come to work.”
While his season is shortened to only eight games, Boys Basketball Head Coach George Bruns is excited to get back to coaching.
“We have a number of younger players who have a lot of potential, and I look at it as those guys having a golden opportunity to get a baptism of fire,” Bruns said. “We have some returning guys and we’re going to have to do the best we can with teaching a basic offense and playing defense.”
Bruns, 75, has received his first dose of the vaccine and feels comfortable with the school district’s protocols. But what about the protocols of the schools his team will be playing?
“The one thing that would be better is if you knew every other school was testing,” Bruns remarked. “I’m very comfortable with what the [Manhasset School District] did. I think they’re doing a good job with that.”