In everything that a school district does, the first priority must always be the safety of its students. That has most certainly been the focus of the City School District of Albany throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – which, as we know, continues to be a public health threat regionally, nationally and around the world.
With that critical focus foremost in our minds, we have followed the recommendations of our federal, state and local health healthcare and medical professionals in our planning for the upcoming fall sports season.
During the first week of August, the New York State Department of Health advised that school districts should align their planning for the 2021-22 school year with the health and safety guidance of their local health department, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That same week, the Albany County Department of Health issued guidance for school districts indicating that high-risk sports should be virtual or cancelled unless all student-athletes are fully vaccinated. Saratoga County Public Health also issued the same recommendations for its school districts at that time.
Last week, the New York State Department of Education also reaffirmed those recommendations for high-risk sports.
All of that guidance aligns with the recommendations of the CDC as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It is important to note that, based on research from the CDC, Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many inequities to the forefront of public health. It has highlighted that health equity is a challenge as COVID-19 has unequally affected many people of color, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.
People of color are on an average 1.3 times more likely to be infected by COVID-19, 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 1.9 times more likely to suffer death from COVID-19.
Based on data from the CDC in July, COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing the spread of the virus and keeping us from getting seriously ill even if COVID-19 is contracted. By being vaccinated, we also protect people around us who may be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Regarding the Delta variant, public health guidance continues to express that vaccines reduce the spread and are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death. We continue to encourage that those 12 and older are vaccinated if they are eligible and able.
You can access the following resources and research for more information:
- COVID-19 racial disparities:
- Why facemasks work
Vaccination requirements for fall sports
Our school district believes that the surest way to fulfill our responsibility of protecting the health and safety of our students is to align our protocols and procedures with the expert guidance of health and medical professionals. We are continuing to do that with our decision to require our student-athletes in the high-risk sports of cheerleading, football and volleyball to be fully vaccinated to be able to compete during the fall season.
With our preseason workouts scheduled to begin Monday, we will allow student-athletes in high-risk sports to participate in tryouts and preseason practices if they are partially vaccinated.
That is, they will be eligible to practice if:
- They have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and have an appointment for the second dose,
- Or, if they have had their second dose but are not yet through the required two-week period to be considered fully vaccinated.
We also will require student-athletes in high-risk sports who are partially vaccinated to consent to regular COVID-19 testing to be able to participate in tryouts and practices. However, no student-athlete in a high-risk sport will be able to take part in a competition against a team from another school district until they are fully vaccinated.
For our low- and moderate-risk sports, our student-athletes must be fully vaccinated or consent to regular COVID-19 testing throughout the season.
Student-athletes do not need a vaccination to receive a preseason sports physical from the district.
Any student-athlete who has tested positive for COVID-19 at any point in the past must have proof of a normal electrocardiogram (EKG) to be cleared to participate in a fall sport. The EKG can have been performed at any time after the student-athlete recovered from COVID-19.
Proof of a normal EKG also is required to be able to have a district physical for all student-athletes who previously have tested positive for COVID-19. The district can assist families with arranging an EKG if necessary.
We know that athletics and extracurricular activities contribute to the social-emotional development of our students. They are an important piece of developing the whole child, providing an opportunity for students to be connected to school in ways beyond academics.
We value these opportunities, and want to provide as many extracurricular opportunities for students as possible to enrich their overall school experience and contribute to their growth and development. We also must do that in ways that are safe, especially during a pandemic.
We will continue to follow the recommendations of our federal, state and local public health and medical professionals in all of our planning for the upcoming school year.
Yours in education,
Kaweeda G. Adams