By Camie Strojny
As Nantucket High School Athletics transitioned from fall sports being intramural, to winter sports having the ability to play interscholastic, many opinions have arisen regarding fully-online students, grouped in Cohort D. These fully-online students have always been given the option to participate in all extracurriculars this school year, regardless of their cohort. The big question the community is asking is whether they should be allowed to play school sports if they won’t come into the school building for class.
The overwhelming majority agrees they should be allowed, for Cohort D is not all about worries of exposure. It could be from a multitude of factors. Senior Athlete Sydney King, a Cohort D student, states that, “I think it would be totally unfair to strip us away from sports. I am in Cohort D because I couldn’t adjust to switching back and forth to in-person and online every week.” Many students are struggling with transitioning from in-person school to virtual learning when cases spike, like King. In order to switch to Cohort D, one must state their reasoning. The reasons include: in-person feeling unsafe, underlying health conditions in the student or family member, a student taking care of younger siblings, an employed student who is supporting their family, and transition difficulties. Students Mimi Belanger (Cohort A, in-person four days a week, student-athlete) and Lily Hunter (Cohort D, non-student-athlete) agree with King’s statement, following up with, “Why wouldn’t they be able to? They’re still students, still a part of the school. As long as you’re following the protocols, it should be up to you and your family.”
Similar to King, Junior Jaydin Buckley conveys her take on being in Cohort D: “I work better in Cohort D. I don’t have as many distractions as I would at school, and also I have trouble sitting in the classroom for 85 minutes per class. Being at home, I have the chance to take things a little slower and go at my own pace. There is a lot of pressure in school to keep up with other students, and exceed other people’s expectations.” As Buckley plays softball in the spring, this reasoning should not affect her ability to participate in doing something she loves. Cohort D Student-Athlete Katie Purda follows up on Buckley’s statement; “As long as it’s okay with them and the parents, sports should be a go. I think it’s exclusivity to leave us out.”
Many individuals outside of the Nantucket Public School think differently. When the district was sent to virtual learning around Thanksgiving break due to an influx of cases, winter sports started on December 14th. One person on Facebook expressed incredulity that students were allowed to gather in person for sports, but not for academics, calling the situation “ridiculous,” but the reality is there are far fewer kids participating on each team combined than the number of kids that would be present on a normal school day in the high school, even split up amongst different cohorts.
Each athlete fills out a daily Covid-19 questionnaire, answering yes or no to all Covid-19 symptoms. If they answer “yes” to any symptom within the last 14 days, they are not permitted to practice that day. Each week, the school sends out an email district-wide on the amount of Covid-19 cases affiliated with the school system, and the dates of when that individual was in the building last. Even when we were virtual, cases were still spiking, which suggests that the spike in cases was not correlated to students being in school or school sports. Although correlation doesn’t equal causation, it is plausible to believe that it was not school-aged children causing the increased numbers—at least not through school sports and academics.
The Nantucket Athletic Department has been working diligently in order to keep all individuals involved in athletics safe. In the few incidents an athlete was exposed or test positive, teams quarantined and proved a negative test before returning back to practice. Masks are worn at all times, just like in school. If the athlete needs to catch their breath, they step away from the group and have a “mask-break,” just like in school. It is almost second nature now to spread apart when near others. When traveling off-island, the teams are the last ones on the boat, and the last ones off, with designated seating areas on the boat. On the buses, it is one person per seat, and teams are limited to the number of players that can travel. How does this differ from families traveling off-island safely? If the professionals and administrators deem traveling for sports to be safe, we should trust them. They would never intentionally try and put us in danger. Why did Nantucket play intramurally in the fall? It wasn’t deemed safe at the time, but now it is. Cases are dropping dramatically as more vaccines are administered. In each state’s reopening plans, they are never going to say, “You can hang out with friends now.” It will be up to the individual’s comfort levels. If the individual feels as though they are safe with how the administration is running sports, they should go ahead and do it.
Haven’t the kids endured enough? Stripped away from rites of passages, lacking social interaction, and living through “history” time and time again? The conversation of taking away sports will turn into a conversation of skyrocketing physical and mental health problems in our youth. The students are taking consequences of many adults’ actions who are not practicing safely. We stress the importance of doing what is best for each individual in this pandemic, but it becomes hypocritical when one’s version of safe does not fit our own, even when they still are maintaining safety guidelines.