School Committee Reviews Interscholastic Winter Sports

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“Athletics play such an important role in keeping our students engaged…. The big ‘pro’ here is that we are participating.”

That was the framework for a briefing on high school winter interscholastic sports delivered to the School Committee Tuesday by Keith Mangan, the schools’ director of athletics.

Mangan reviewed the policies and practices adopted by the 11 Dual County League schools and cited some of the modifications in individual sports designed to minimize the threat of spreading the coronavirus, as promulgated through the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.

The abbreviated winter season ends on Feb. 20, ending with a cushion of a few days for weather-related postponements. Active winter sports will be Alpine skiing, basketball, boys’ hockey, rifle, and swim and dive.

Winter track will be postponed to the new “fall 2” season, which begins in late February, because of the current lack of venues, Mangan said. Two other winter sports, wrestling and cheer, are postponed unto spring. Answering a question, Mangan said Bedford High and Shawsheen Valley Technical High School are working it plans for combined girls’ hockey. Middle school athletics will be intramural only.

One “huge change” will be the absence of spectators at any contests, Mangan said, although that could be revisited at the beginning of January, he noted. “We’re working on plans to livestream every event.”

School Committee Chair Dan Brosgol cracked, “Do you know who loves having no fans in basketball? The refs.”

Mangan said DCL athletic directors are meeting virtually as often as twice a week fine-tuning issues like scheduling and continuity between programs. The DCL “small schools” division comprises Boston Latin, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Waltham, Wayland and Weston as well as Bedford. Varsity trams will face each other two times in one week; junior varsity squads once a week. Games are scheduled to begin on Jan  5.

Although there are no Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association post-season tournaments, the DCL is planning its own mini-tourneys.

Swim meets will be fully virtual, Mangan said, with times kept at respective pools. He noted that rifle meets have operated that way for several years. There’s concern about the location for skiing, he added, because following the latest league meeting, Nashoba Ski Area in Westford announced “are not planning to open the mountain for racing.”

Under state guidelines, Mangan said, school districts have to notify their opponents if the community is designated a high-incidence “red” for vaccine prevalence.

Besides the prohibition on spectators, other protocols for the season include wearing of masks, social-distancing on benches and buses, and no use of locker rooms.
Regardless of modifications, Mangan said, “The kids have been great. Kids adapt easier than some adults do, and it has been refreshing.”

All five School Committee members applauded Mangan’s effort. Brad Morrison declared, “It has been creative and an exemplary approach to community problem-solving in a crisis situation.”

Indeed, Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad pointed out that Mangan’s leadership extends through the DCL and statewide in the MIAA. “I really appreciate Keith’s having a really positive influence over what comes out of these different organizations,” the superintendent said. “His approach is very thoughtful, very student-oriented.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763
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