Tag Archive: pandemic

  1. In Connecticut, high school football season remains in question

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    Cheering students dressed in blue and white have traditionally filled the stadium bleachers for one Friday each fall, crowding in for the annual Staples High School homecoming game in Westport, CT. But this year is different.

    Due to COVID-19, this year’s football season is in question for all of Connecticut. The
    Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, otherwise known as the CIAC, has continued to
    debate whether fall sports, among which football remains the most popular among conference
    schools, should be allowed to continue among the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The season is set to begin on Sep. 8 and to end on Oct. 30. While no decision is finalized, the
    CIAC has said it plans to have a meeting on Monday in order to finalize a plan for all fall sports.

    “I think the plan that the CIAC came out with so far is extremely fair. If you’re going to go forward
    with sports I think it’s very well thought out and I think they did a good job to try to give the kids
    the best experience possible if you’re going to Play.” said Dave Ruden, a local sports reporter,
    of 30 years who has covered the CIAC’s discussions.

    According to the CIAC’s website, the plan is for fall sports to occur with a few modifications.
    These include no spectators, a smaller schedule of 6-8 games and practices in groups of 15.
    The changes have angered students and families.

    “I’m really sad that it’s my last year. I won’t be able to cheer on my friends,” Andrew Amato, a
    Weston High School senior said.

    The modified season also greatly affects the players and their recruitment process. Last year , Staples High School sent three students to schools like John Hopkins, Michigan and Harvard in football scholarship. The loss of a complete season has now threatened the future of about half dozen members of the class of 2021 that seek to be recruited to play in college.

    “{The players} aren’t gonna have film for college coaches to look at and some kids will either
    maybe not get the offer they hoped for,” Ruden said, “and there’s going to be some that may not
    even get the opportunity to play in college.”

    A cancelled season would mean many students would miss recruitment opportunities. The Connecticut Department of Health issued a statement to the CIAC on Aug. 1 expressing their concern and the need for both football and girls volleyball to get moved to the fall. As of now, the CIAC has chosen to ignore this and continue with the upcoming season. If they were to follow the DOC’s guidelines, the football season would have been long-gone by now.

    Others have begun to experiment with different ways sports can be played. Ruden said he
    believes it would be effective if students were to attend school for two weeks. If these two weeks
    run smoothly regarding no positive cases, then sports should follow. If they don’t run smoothly,
    then that is an issue within itself.

    “It’s gonna be a real let down if I don’t get to play my senior season,” said Staples Varsity kicker
    Max Szostack. “Not only will I miss the game, I will miss out on my last season with my
    teammates. I’m just hoping the season stays on even if it means having guidelines and I have to
    wear a mask.”

    Many Westport residents have begun sharing a petition in hopes of making the rules more
    lenient. The petition calls for the implementation of measures that would reduce exposure between players, including daily temperature checks, excluding parent exclusion from the
    field, mask requirements for those entering sports stadiums and the prohibition of huddles during sports games.

    The petition has acquired almost 1,000 signatures.

  2. Keep New Jersey schools closed: safety in seclusion

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    Last month, Various districts in North Jersey approved the return for students and staff members in September.

    Several school districts across northern New Jersey approved plans for an online option, half-day schedule, and hybrid models where students are divided into groups that rotate from online to in-person classes on set days.

    While it is most effective for students to learn in a classroom environment, there are many holes in the various districts’ plans for reopening which suggests that it is not safe to open schools.

    Teachers and administrators have noticed the faults in the current plans. North Jersey teachers held a rally over Route 4 protesting the reopening of schools in New Jersey, as first reported by NorthJersey.com. Protesters demanded that schools be closed until the coronavirus is “under control”.

    Silvia Acosta, an educational specialist at Hawes Elementary School in Ridgewood, is among the school faculty members who have objected to the NJ schools reopening in September.

    “ I am going to be scared if I have to go back to work and things are not safe,” said Acosta on the return of students back to schools. “There is so much we don’t know about this virus, we could be opening up a huge pandora’s box .”

    While school districts across North Jersey have meticulously planned the re-opening of schools to be as safe as possible, there are still a few elements not accounted for.

    Acosta said that while the staff will try to keep students from clustering together, school faculty will have trouble when it comes to interfering with groups of students while still trying to maintain the 6 feet apart mandate.

    The state of Air filtration systems remains another concerning element of many school’s reopening plans. The HVAC-8 air filtration systems, which the majority of NJ schools have, filters fresh air coming in and out of the build using the Merv-13, which removes unwanted particles from the air. While this filtration system is helpful for filtering dust and other particles, it will not stem the movement of coronavirus particles according to Acosta. 

    The air filtrations system will not add to the safety of students. The limitations of how safe we can make schools are apparent and insufficient.

    Even if everyone abides by school protocol to wear a mask, it only decreases the chances of getting COVID-19 by 65% according to figures published by UC Davis

    “I don’t think that hundreds of people can safely learn in one building realistically especially since people could take off their masks at any point, not respecting social distance requirements,” said Olivia Jackson, a sophomore at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale.

    These last few months of online learning has proven to be a difficult transition for many students. The distractions that home learning entails have made it hard to remain productive. 

    We, students, long for the day when we can return to school, reintegrate ourselves in the academic and social community that matters most to us.

    However, we understand that sending students and teachers back to school, putting both parties in danger, would contribute to the newest coronavirus outbreaks in northern New Jersey. This is not speculation. School-related outbreaks have occurred in Georgia elementary schools after a failed re-opening. 

    We, the students, have sat at home for too long for this pandemic to relapse once again. If we start steering back to the path of a normal life too soon we could be contributing to the second wave of COVID-19.

    Rushing back into school at an unstable time can only provide further damage to our community.

  3. Amid pandemic, high school football coach takes a break from football for the first time in four decades

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    In these strange times of quarantine, Georgetown Prep Varsity football Head Hoach Dan Paro is minimized to emailing his lamentations and organizing the occasional Zoom call with his players.

    For the first time since 1983, Paro is left alone on the field with nothing but silence and a cool breeze at 8 in the morning on the turf field. This time any other year he would be supervising almost 100 high school boys in football pads and helmets running drills on a playing turf whose surface temperature reaches 110 degrees by midday.

    Under his coaching Georgetown Prep has amassed over 140 wins with the football team and 20 championship titles. Last year, his coaching prowess shone through when his football team returned from a 13 point deficit to win the championship in the second half.

    “For the first time in my career the pandemic has challenged my attitude. What fuels me each day is the time I spend with the players and students face to face and in person. This has all been taken away. But, as I have said before, we have to fight through it and make the best of a bad situation. Attitude and faith dictates all, that is why it is always 50 and windy here at Prep,” said Paro.

    Paro attended Georgetown Prep, graduating in 1979. Now, he serves as the head varsity football coach and athletic director. Paro played 8 years of college and high school football, going on to earning All-Ohio Athletic Conference athlete honors and graduating with a masters in Athletic Administration.
    His life has revolved around the institution.

    Now the pandemic has uprooted everything. The conditions of the pandemic has cancelled practices and delayed the start of the football season.

    “It feels wrong to be this close to fall and not have football while hell week sucks and your body is sore and you want to go home, at least you all do it together and go through the highs and lows together as a team,” said Luke Lustig, junior and first time player on Paro’s varsity team, said of the cut .

    Each summer the football team would usually spend a week at Georgetown Prep living in the empty dorms. The team has practice three times a day in the scalding summer sun hence the name “hell week”.

    “Paro makes the practices and workouts tough but also gives us time for fun and bonding like the storytimes with upperclassmen and the skits we do on comedy night” asid Lustig.

    Where some would see the pandemic as a break from work and stress of football, Paro said he sees a part of himself missing. Football being something that makes him whole and something he devotes hundreds of hours to. He believes that in these strange times his players have taken responsibility and have kept in shape for the good of the team.

    “Good athletes are born with a gene, but great athletes are those whose work habits in all aspects of life each and every day allow them to reach new heights. Attitude dictates all and the great ones have it.” he told the News.

    Those who play for Paro learn to value his coaching values: hard work conquers all and he pushes his players to be great in both the classroom and on the field.

    Paro’s coaching style is built off of his values as a Jesuit alumni and instructor. The primary of which being his beliefs in ‘cura personalis’ or ‘care for the individual’ and ensuring he coaches each and every player knowing their strengths and weaknesses.

    Recently graduated senior Christopher Singleton long stood out from his peers, until his senior football season, when injuries derailed his athletic career. He started with the first day of football camp and tore a hamstring, relinquishing him from all summer football practices and scrimmages just to return to the sport and a single game later tearing his ACL and being done for the rest of his senior season.

    “As soon as I got injured Paro was the first one to come to my room…and if it wasn’t for him I would not be playing football today. Paro helped me find my love for football and also played a huge part in my recruitment to Gettysburg College” said Singleton.

    The player said he sees Paro as a father figure while boarding at Prep — someone who truly cares about students on and off the field.

    In his senior year Singleton went into a panic relating to the future of his football career since he was injured and would not be able to show his senior film. Paro went on to assist him into a starting role at Gettysburg College.

    Singleton said he remembers Coach Paro telling him that “adversity is your friend” as a student-athlete. This has pushed him to keep hope and the drive to play football through all of his surgeries. It also lit a fire under the now 4 underclassmen on the offensive line who had been thrust into a starting role their first year playing varsity.

    “In one practice we were really struggling to get the lineman steps and wide receiver routes down, but there was no shouting and no anger. We simply kept going until we got it right.” Paro said. “You can’t coach Xs and Os, you must know the person and understand them to have them play at their best.”

    Paro’s leadership has created a culture that students want to be a part of. Without this student s wait. Now Paro and all of his athletes hope to make a big return in their delayed season occurring in March 2021 and to be back on their home field once again.

  4. Quarantine conditions takes its toll on the lives of classical musicians

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    Despite setbacks, classical musicians have found ways to stay active during the recent quarantine.

    The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected the livelihood of musicians, both financially or physically. Many musicians’ careers depend on concerts, many of which have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Due to limitations, many have turned to technology and supporting each other to help the community during this time.

    “All of my performances have been cancelled, and anything I was hoping to do in the spring had been pushed off into the road,” said Dr. Alice Jones, a professor and flutist working at Juilliard, Purchase College, and Queensborough Community College.

    Jones previously curated interactive chamber music concerts at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. The pandemic has pressed her to cancel all of them, and left her responsible for financial obligation and reimbursements for musicians who planned to perform. Jones used her stimulus check to pay the contracts of musicians, in the hopes this would ensure them some income during the economic shutdown.

    During the quarantine, Jones said she has worked on commissions. She has posted four different pieces on her website and paid any freelance musician who would learn and perform a part to provide them with much needed income. Since she started doing this, other musicians have reached to Jones for commissions, adding extra work for the coming months.

    Jones has also taught virtual summer classes for the Juilliard Preparatory Division in addition to her regular seasonal classes at the Juilliard MAP to teach younger students topics such as ethnomusicology, or the study of music from different cultures, as well as participating in the recent protests for Black Lives Matter.

    Simon Frisch, a composition doctorate student at the Juilliard School, said that many of his showcases and travels were postponed indefinitely, and many classes have moved electronically. Frisch, whose studies focus on composition, has shifted his attention to his other interests, such as pre-15th century music.

    “In spite of my study plans, at least in person, being cancelled for the summer, meaning going to Europe… I was able to study Parisian repertoire and manuscripts, and older forms of notations, all of which I think inform my compositional practice,” says Frisch.

    Despite not being able to travel to many of the origins of this music, Frisch has devoted time to analyzing these works, and still has plans to go to France next year.

    Frisch noted that composers, in contrast to musicians, had an easier time adjusting to the technology needed, because of the abundance of compositional programs and resources available. He was able to teach a compositional student from Australia using virtual classroom technology .

    Lucija Budinski, a 14 year old flutist from New York, has taken the time away to school to learn new instruments.

    “I’ve been watching a ukulele course online, and have been improving my singing, as I want to try writing my own music.” said Budinski. Budinski has also been continuing to work on repertoire from before the quarantine.

    However, Budinski also noted that the quarantine affects her workflow.

    “I think I’ve started to procrastinate more and just been less motivated. I haven’t been outside much, and just having the ability to stay home all day … has affected my work ethic extremely,” said Budinski.

    Jones and Frisch have also taken the time to invest in other hobbies outside of music, such as cooking and baking, that were helpful during quarantine, as well as the importance of self-care.

    Yet Jones has remained concerned about the accessibility of technology, and how that discrepancy might affect musicians who may not have that access readily available.

    “Not everybody has access to the things we’re using. Not everybody has a reliable internet. Not everybody has a computer. Not everybody has a quiet space,” said Jones.

    Others, like Lucija Budinski, a Juilliard MAP student, said they are worried about decreased pay for musicians and small businesses, as well as the caution for reopening, especially for schools.

    “I think some musicians will definitely have a decrease in pay and audience,” said Budinski. “So many people are going out of business, and the virus is still nowhere near to a close.”

    Concert halls and theaters too, like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and even Broadway, will remain closed until the end of 2020.