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Cancel sports tournaments but not school? I don't think so

Somehow, thousands and thousands of kids were allowed to attend school Wednesday, amid the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference's latest edict that canceled the all winter sports tournaments.

Somehow, educational leadership in our state has concluded that our kids are safer among all their classmates, teachers and other staffers within the bustling halls of a school than they would be playing basketball in a gym without spectators. It is more permissible for a basketball player from NFA to engage with 2,000 other students during the school day than to participate in a basketball game in an empty gym with maybe 50 people in it.

Is that idiocy, hypocrisy or both? The byproduct of a completely rudderless state? Here's a theory: Canceling some dumb sports tournament is worth a few days of bad press, especially considering no revenue would be forthcoming from empty gyms and that paying staff would cost money. Ah, but canceling school for a while, with the prospect of making up the time during April vacation or in mid June hits too close to home.

Maybe someone of a higher pay grade can help me understand, for example, why the State Department of Education advised all public schools Monday to cancel non-academic gatherings of more than 100 people.

As a friend of mine wondered: What do they consider lunch?

No, really. Lunchtime in virtually any school cafeteria — a non-academic gathering — puts more than 100 kids in close proximity. They are also eating, which means hand-to-mouth contact. Vegas would make it a pick 'em as to whether half of them washed their hands before eating anyway. That's safer than a basketball game in a spectator-free gym?

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) issued the following statements the last two days:

March 10: "The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) is moving forward to conduct the basketball and hockey championship games scheduled on March 10-15. In accordance with the recommendations from Governor Baker to mitigate COVID-19, we encourage participants, spectators, workers and community members to practice good personal hygiene. We support the recommendation for the elderly and those with underlying health issues to stay away from large crowds."

March 11: "The March 11th D3 Boys (Sutton vs Sabis) and D4 Girls (Maynard vs Monson) games have been postponed in an effort to find a host site that will accommodate fans. We are actively pursuing a host site for Thursday. More information to follow when available."

Quite the novel concept one state to the north. Exercise good judgment and work together to find host sites that will accommodate fans. Isn't it interesting what happens when adults are interested in collaboration — educational buzzword there — over expediency?

There are hundreds of coaches and athletic directors willing to work together here in Connecticut to give the kids safe places to play. Sadly, they, just like the kids protesting outside CIAC offices Wednesday, might as well be callers to Mike Francesa: barely entertained and expeditiously dismissed.

We also learned Wednesday that the New England Small College Athletic Conference decided to cancel spring sports because of the coronavirus. I'm not necessarily in agreement, but at least there's consistency to this, given the decision of many NESCAC schools to have students return home and complete the semester remotely.

NESCAC officials have concluded that if you're not safe in the classroom, you are not safe on the field. Officials from CIAC and the State Department of Education don't have the bandwidth to conclude the same. Somehow, they believe our kids are safer among hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of others in school than on a basketball court with nobody watching them.

Maybe this is why my friend Tony Cafaro, a former teacher at Fitch, wants to write a book titled, "You Can't Make This (Stuff) Up."

You really can't.

I've done my best to educate myself about the coronavirus. I believe it's going to get worse before it gets better. But I also believe the CIAC's decision was too hasty and without consideration to many earnest educators who would have worked overtime to give the kids a chance. We had the chance to work together and foster meaningful conversations. It was worth the effort.

Instead, we are left to ask why the kids are still in school if they consider the prospect of spectator free gyms unsafe. They're making it work in Massachusetts. They could have given a much better effort here if they wanted to.

They didn't.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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