The Recorder – Greenfield School Committee approves fall sports

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The Greenfield School Committee approved the participation of its public schools for the upcoming fall sports season on Monday night, voting to allow the sports of field hockey, golf and cross country to play games and hold meets.

Greenfield Athletic Director Mike Kuchieski went before the committee during its special virtual meeting, and he laid out the guidelines and some of the safety protocols that his district would be implementing in order to practice and play games this fall.

Last week, Franklin County athletic directors voted to postpone the traditional fall sports of soccer, volleyball and cheer to the new MIAA “fall II” season, set for play beginning in February. Those sports, along with football, which was moved across the state to “fall II,” will still be allowed to practice in Greenfield this fall, as Kuchieski said the school plans to take advantage of the MIAA waiver that will grant permission for out of season coaches to work with their players. He said practice-only sports will likely be allowed to get together two or three times per week this fall.

Greenfield joined Gill-Montague and Mahar Regional as area districts that have received school committee approval to play fall sports. Pioneer Valley Regional is expected to vote on the topic later this week.

Practices for all fall sports are expected to begin Sept. 18, with games for field hockey, golf and cross country likely to follow around Oct. 1. Greenfield begins school on Sept. 17, and the district will be operating on a fully remote schedule.

“Now we have the support of the School Committee which is nice, but the hard part is still ahead of us and that’s implementing modifications for every sport required by the state and getting the kids out there and playing,” Kuchieski said on Tuesday.

Kuchieski explained to the committee on Monday that Greenfield teams participating in games would be varsity only, with a maximum of 14 players getting to travel on busses for away contests due to social distancing requirements. Greenfield will only play schools from throughout the area to limit travel.

“We as Franklin County ADs got together and felt this is going to be the safest for our area schools,” he said. “We aren’t going to go into Hampshire County, Hampden County for travel purposes. Where our (COVID-19) numbers are, we felt it was best for us just to play each other and give our kids some type of opportunity to play.”

Kuchieski told the committee that Franklin County athletic directors are looking at not allowing spectators to attend games this fall, referring to Governor Baker’s order limiting outdoor gatherings to 50 people. He said it would be difficult to monitor that number for area schools.

“As ADs, we’re making the recommendation to have no fans because of the difficulty policing that,” he offered.

To offset that, Kuchieski said he is in discussions with various companies about potentially filming and live-streaming sporting events for internet viewing this fall and into the winter.

Committee member Katie Caron said she was in favor of Greenfield students getting the opportunity to play in the fall, agreeing with Kuchieski that sports are an important outlet for students in the district.

“I really do support getting this season going,” she said. “We’re trying to make as many touch points as we can in checking in on (students). This is just another way we can make sure our children are OK during this tough time.”

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner asked Kuchieski about the status of winter and spring sports, and the AD informed her that the MIAA’s COVID-19 Task Force is set to meet again on Oct. 18 to discuss the seasons ahead. Kuchieski did note that winter indoor track isn’t going to happen, as the facility used by Western Mass. schools at Smith College won’t be available with the college shutting down on-campus buildings for the year.

Vice Chair Susan Eckstrom was the lone abstention from voting on the fall sports measure. Eckstrom said that she supported playing sports, but wanted further clarification on the district’s liability if a student-athlete contracts COVID-19 during the season. Superintendent Jordana Harper said that she was awaiting further word on the district’s insurance situation.

The committee also voted to approve stipend pay for coaches that had their fall sport season moved to “fall II.” The decision was to pay them one-quarter of their stipend during the fall, where they will be working with students out of season, and then play the remaining money in the spring. 

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