The Sag Harbor School District announced this week it would cancel student events — in and out of district — and end the middle school winter sports season early, in an effort to protect students, staff and community members from potential exposure to COVID-19, a virus that’s international reach hit Suffolk County last week with one confirmed transmission.
Following a special Sag Harbor Village Board of Education meeting on Monday evening, Interim Superintendent Eleanor Tritt informed school community members that through the end of March, events ranging from parent teacher conferences to the North Shore Math Tournament, the Suffolk County Music Educators Association competition, IB Information Night, various awards ceremonies including the National Honor Society Induction Ceremony, Pierson High School’s chorus and jazz band and even the district’s popular Multicultural Night, were cancelled.
All home and away athletic events, excluding practices scheduled by individual coaches, are also cancelled through April 3, including the end of the middle school winter sports season.
Last week, the district also cancelled the elementary school Morning Program until further notice.
The school district is closed for Spring Recess April 6 through April 10.
On Monday night, Ms. Tritt explained to the board that the district had received a flurry of communications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York State Education Department and the county and state departments of health on how to handle the outbreak locally and that the information was fluid, changing rapidly leading up to Monday’s board meeting.
“In less than 24 hours we had quite a bit of information change and we anticipate that will continue to happen,” said Ms. Tritt. “This is obviously unfolding information and we have to follow guidelines and will keep everyone posted and try to be as clear as possible about the changes as they come.”
She walked the board through health protocols being followed by custodial staff and encouraged parents to keep sick children home. “We want parents to understand that if their children are not well, they should keep them at home,” said Ms. Tritt. “They should not be compelled to bring them to school to keep up perfect attendance and know those absences will be excused.”
In terms of cancelling events, Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols said while traditionally the district may look at what other schools were doing, this situation was unprecedented.
“In my 25 years of doing this, this is unlike any other health situation I have come across and what other districts are doing is usually what I think about but not in this situation because everyone has been in a holding pattern waiting for guidance and it didn’t come until this afternoon and even that guidance is not crystal clear,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are operating as an individual entity and have to take the information we have and make the best decision possible.”
“I am going to be inclined to cancel a lot of activities where I cannot ascertain whether they are at risk of being exposed to the virus,” said Mr. Nichols.
“I would much rather look back in a couple months and say we cancelled more events than we needed than we were not cautious enough and put more people at risk,” said board of education member Alex Kriegsman.
“You never know the bullet you dodged,” said board member Chris Tice.
“That is a very important part of our school day,” said Sag Harbor Elementary Principal Matt Malone of Morning Program. “But our school day can go on without that, so we want the children safe but if we can also maintain the school day, we are taking care of two important things here.”
Sag Harbor School District Athletic Director Eric Bramoff on Wednesday said the district has ended the middle school winter sports season, affecting roughly 40 athletes who compete in girls basketball, boys volleyball and wrestling. He said no Sag Harbor athletes at the junior varsity and varsity levels will compete in games until after April 3.
“From an athletic standpoint, we’re proceeding that Sag Harbor will not be sending students to contests of any kind until April 3,” Mr. Bramoff said. “And effective today, we are ending the middle school winter sports seasons. At the varsity and junior varsity level, will make every effort to make up the contests that we miss. Unfortunately, our shared sports athletes will not be able to participate if those games are held.”
Sag Harbor students participate in shared sports in East Hampton, including girls lacrosse, boys and girls track, boys tennis and girls golf, and combine with East Hampton, Southampton, Bridgehampton and Ross in boys lacrosse. According to Section XI, the governing body of high school athletics in Suffolk County, all those sports have games scheduled prior to April 3.
Pierson High School has its own baseball and softball teams and both were scheduled for a series of scrimmages and games prior to April 3, all of which will have to be rescheduled, according to Mr. Bramoff.
“I certainly can understand the disappointment of the athletes. but we’re going to what’s best for our students,”; he said. “Everyone is going to practice. A letter was sent to Section XI as well as all the neighboring athletic directors and we will be updating this as the situation evolves. Right now we’re in a holding pattern until April 3.
Mr. Bramoff estimated the district has about 40 middle school athletes who had their seasons come to a close, with an additonal 50 athletes who participate in shared sports and about 60 total athletes trying out for the junior varsity and varsity baseball and softball teams.