Update On Status Of High School Winter Sports
The suspension of PPS Athletic Activities has been extended to align with the current remote learning academic model.
Here's more info from the Pittsfield Public Schools Administration Office's Press Release:
The Pittsfield Public Schools Athletic Department has continued to closely monitor research, health metrics, and local community developments tied to coronavirus cases.
At the beginning of an unprecedented 2020-2021 school year, the school district suspended athletic operations at Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School until November 30, 2020. While a difficult athletic decision, it served as the most logical, safe, and reasonable outcome, at the beginning of a school year in which students were educated remotely until late October.
Consideration tied to educational challenges and health\safety dynamics, combined with faith and optimism, provides a framework that encompasses the goals of both “delivering education”, and “delivering athletics”, in-person consistently, and responsibly, in 2020-2021.
In regard to athletics, this framework includes traditional fall, winter, and spring sports, each ideally having an opportunity to operate modified programming in 2020-2021. For example, the suspension of athletic programming in recent months came with an understanding that traditional fall sports will anticipate operating a modified season during the newly MIAA-created “Fall II Floating Season” - which is scheduled to take place late winter\spring 2021.
The current circumstances faced, include an academic transition back to 100% remote learning, holiday season gatherings, increasingly unfavorable health metrics, positive COVID-19 tests, and rampant spreads of illness locally and nationally, which coincide with the traditional start of winter high school sports.
In recent weeks, stakeholders associated with educational athletics – including the Massachusetts Department of Secondary Education (DESE), the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) - distributed guidelines, format recommendations, guidance, and potential options related to opportunities associated with offering high school sports for the Winter 2020-2021 school year.
These communications offer insight into a shared desire to provide student-athletes participation opportunities, with consideration towards the many health, safety, education, operational, logistical, and facility challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pittsfield Public Schools have a desire to ensure that our student-athletes have meaningful opportunities to participate in the sports they are passionate about, in a setting that is functional and safe.
Recognizing that sports are an important part of a well-rounded educational experience, along with acknowledging the challenges associated with current public health and remote learning conditions, the Pittsfield Public Schools will continue to monitor circumstances in an effort to deliver athletics to students in 2020-2021.
Aligning with the Friday, December 4th Pittsfield Public Schools announcement regarding the extension of our 100% remote learning model until further notice pending specific health metric trends, and in an effort to minimize contact and interactions that could potentially increase the spread of the virus locally in the near future, the suspension of athletic operations will also be extended.
In striving to exhaust all options for our high school sports programs and student-athletes to experience opportunities to compete in their respective sports in 2020-2021, the Pittsfield Public Schools is extending the suspension of all interscholastic athletic programming until in-person education resumes.
The Pittsfield Public Schools will be guided by local health metrics, and data tied to our community’s percent positivity rate, in all future decisions related to resuming in-person education and athletics.
Per previous school district announcements, students attending the Pittsfield Public Schools will remain in all-remote learning until data shows a decrease in cases over a two week period that results in a percent positivity rate of 3% or less.
As of last week, if health metrics began to show a development of a downward trend, in-person education could have conceivably resumed prior to the late December holiday break.
However, while remaining hopeful, our current data would indicate that our student’s in-person education and therefore our student’s athletic activities are unlikely to resume before, or during, that traditional holiday break, which begins on December 23rd.
The targeted “start date” for initial athletic programming to potentially begin, shall follow 1 week (5 School Days) of in-person learning successfully resuming.
Traditional winter athletic programs offered at Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School, include:
• Boys Ice Hockey
• Alpine Ski
Per a recent MIAA announcement, the sport of Wrestling will not operate during the Winter 20-21 season, and will attempt to operate in Spring 2021 pending further review.
Per a recent Berkshire County League announcement, the sport of Boys Ice Hockey will not operate locally during the 20-21 season, effectively canceling local high school-sanctioned boys hockey within Berkshire County for the school year.
The resumption of athletic operations, and modified winter athletic programming, in Winter 2020- 2021 MIAA-approved, and Berkshire County League-approved, sports of Basketball, Swimming, & Alpine Ski, will be subject to further review by the Pittsfield Public Schools in conjunction with the review of the resumption of in-person education.
Pending the resumption of high school athletic activities in time to operate as part of a modified Berkshire County Winter Athletic Season, in the sports of Basketball, Swimming, and Alpine Ski, logistical plans would include intentions of:
Boys and Girls Basketball JV & Varsity Teams
• All team practices, home games, and activities based out of Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club
Boys and Girls Swimming Varsity Teams
• All team practices, meets, and virtual meets, and activities based out of Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club and\or Pittsfield YMCA
Boys and Girls Alpine Ski JV & Varsity Teams
• All team practices, races, and activities based out of Bosquet Ski Mountain
Conscious that the City of Pittsfield’s school buildings are first and foremost educational institutions, that will likely have to navigate logistical, building space, and health\public safety guidelines related to delivering education, and out of an abundance of additional cautions, use of school building facilities (including locker rooms, gymnasiums, classrooms, coach’s offices, and weight rooms) will not be permitted upon the initial resumption of high school athletic activities.
Much of the rationale behind this restriction includes factors related to anticipated facility use during the COVID-19 era. This rationale reflects an effort to accommodate a desire to operate athletics, without disrupting the safety and activity tied to resuming and operating in-person education. For example:
* School gyms are set up during COVID-era for daily in-person learning (utilizing large gym spaces to create “classrooms” that meet social distancing and space capacity health guidelines)
* Access to small, confined spaces shall be prohibited (weight rooms and coaches offices do not lend themselves for use by groups of students\teams)
* Locker room use at most athletic facilities prohibited (MassGov.\CDC regulations)
• No spectators will be permitted to attend high school practices, games, or competitions
The Pittsfield Public Schools supports pursuing the concepts of modified traditional interscholastic athletic season start\end dates, and the creation of the MIAA “floating season” for traditional fall sports, pending the consistent delivery of in-person learning.
Modified MIAA athletic season structures tentatively in place, and supported by the Pittsfield Public Schools, include:
“Fall Sports I” (SUSPENDED)
Mid-August To Early November
Football, Soccer, XC Running, Volleyball, Golf
Approx. Mid-January To Early March
Basketball, Alpine Ski, Swimming
“Fall Sports II” (“Floating Season”)
Approx. Late February To Early May
Football, Soccer, XC Running, Volleyball, Golf
Approx. Early May To Late June
Baseball, Softball, Tennis, Track & Field, Lacrosse, Wrestling
In the meantime, and during the extended suspension of athletic activities, the Pittsfield Public Schools position regarding the status of local athletic activities involving participants that are enrolled as students in the Pittsfield Public Schools, remains the same as it has been since March 2020. This includes:
* The Pittsfield Public Schools, The City of Pittsfield, and The MIAA, do not in any way sanction, encourage, condone, or supervise “Captain’s Practices”
* Use of school grounds (indoor and outdoor facilities) for any group athletic activities directly related to the Pittsfield Public Schools, or a team representing the Pittsfield Public Schools, continues to be prohibited until further notice during the suspended athletic programming period
* Participation in any informal workouts, conditioning drills, weight-lifting, skill-building sessions, and\or practices is a parental\personal\family decision
* Any, and all, efforts allocated by high school coaches, to duties associated with organizing athletic activities, is purely voluntary during the suspended period (including conditioning, skills\drills, weight lifting, practices, etc.). High school coaches are prohibited from organizing, or participating in, athletic activities on school grounds that are directly related to our interscholastic athletic programs
* The Pittsfield Public Schools have no formal affiliation, or supervisory role, associated with local recreational leagues, community youth athletic programming, AAU sports, and\or travel teams – including those that may seek approval for use of local athletic facilities and fields via the City of Pittsfield Parks Department
As much as the suspension of interscholastic athletic activities is a difficult decision, it has been made for the long-term good of our students, our school district, our athletic teams, and our community.
The multiple layers of nuances associated with attempting to “deliver athletics”, in conjunction with efforts to “deliver education”, during these unsettling times, make the decision to extend the suspension of high school-sanctioned athletic operations - as well as the efforts to be able to offer all of our traditional sports programming in a modified fashion later in the 2020-2021 school year – a sensible, considerate, and responsible resolution at this time.
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