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No sports, but Lawrence brings back some clubs

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At Monday’s Lawrence Board of Education meeting, the trustees officially approved starting up six student clubs, and six adviser positions. The clubs had been approved by the Lawrence School District last month, but teachers waited for board approval.

The clubs are seventh- and eighth-grade Honor Society; high school Honor Society and student government; and the yearbooks of the middle school and high school, Prelude and The Lawrencian. The faculty positions approved are Prelude co-advisers; high school class adviser; Lawrencian adviser and Lawrence assistant; and student activities treasurer. Production of the high school yearbook is under way, and the other clubs will begin meeting as soon as possible.

“It will be in time for their competitions and induction into the extensive honor societies we offer,” Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said, adding that, for other clubs, the district has to “get an understanding of the details.” Those clubs could start up in January.

The groups are expected to meet virtually after school, with student government and Honor Society meeting in person to fulfill their service component, while maintaining mandated health and safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Club reinstatement comes nearly a week after the school district became the focus of criticism from those who were upset by its announcement that it would not field a relatively low-risk winter track team or squads for the modified fall sports season early next year. Lawrence may take part in the modified spring season that will follow it.

The possibility of eliminating sports altogether so angered some Lawrence High School students that they did not attend classes in person or online last Friday. Roughly 40 students gathered at Andrew J. Parise Cedarhurst Park and marched to Lawrence High to express their frustration with school officials.

The students held placards that read, “Lawrence, we need extracurriculars,” “Lawrence, let the kids play!” and “We’re missing our lessons so we can teach you,” among other messages. They chanted, “Let the kids play!” as they marched along Cedarhurst Avenue.

Lawrence High senior Daniella Andrade was one of the organizers of the protest. “Today is really just a message to the Board of Education how they have just been very unjust to the students of Lawrence High School and they are not serving our community,” Andrade said. “It seems like their means are serving the community around us but not directly the students attending our high school.”

Golden Tornadoes basketball player Don Smalls III, a junior, attended the rally in order to “get justice for our school,” as he put it. Smalls has now lost out on his two sports seasons, volleyball and basketball. “Sports is a huge thing in Lawrence,” he said. “Through these hard times, we need sports. Like one of my classmates said, ‘the light at the end of the tunnel.’”

Smalls said the cancellation of sports was “heartbreaking” not just for him, but also for the seniors who were hoping to make an impression on college recruiters. “My teammate, he’s a senior, he’s an amazing basketball player,” Smalls said of Mikhael Henry, “and this is his opportunity to have college scouts looking at him. We can’t do that, because they’re trying to take our season away from us and we can’t send any footage to send to colleges.”

“Lawrence has taken away opportunities from kids,” said Madison Ramos, a junior who was looking forward to the volleyball and softball seasons, “and just knowing that they took the easy way out instead of actually pushing, and showing the kids that they actually care about us and trying. Instead they used Covid-19 as an excuse in not wanting to wait later in the season to really know if we could have a season or not.”

Ramos added that as far as she was concerned, the district gave up not only on the student athletes, but also on the families who worked hard to help their children potentially have an opportunity to attend college with the help of sports.

Last Friday, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced the official cancellation of all 2021 winter state championships and the postponement of all high-risk sports until state officials grant authorization. The decision was made with input from association members and the 11 section executive directors, association officials said.

Have an opinion about school sports or clubs during the pandemic? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.