ONEIDA — A group of student-athletes from Oneida High School staged a walk-out Monday in protest of the Oneida City School District's decision to delay fall sports.
“We want to play so badly that we’re willing to do whatever it takes," said senior Zack Durr. "It doesn't matter what we have to do, wear a mask, anything is worth it. We understand there are precautions we need to take."
In a statement to CNY Central, superintendent Mary-Margaret Zehr says,
The district is incredibly proud of our students who are advocating for issues that they are passionate about. Their actions today exemplify our mission to empower our students to be active participants in their community.
The district's decision regarding athletics was approached with the same health and safety concerns we applied in determining our modes of instruction. Our current focus remains on the successful implementation of student educational programming. We strongly believe that our decision to delay the fall athletic season keeps our students, staff, families, coaches, officials, and surrounding school districts safer. The district recognizes the tremendous disappointment this decision has caused our students, families and community. We continue to review the implementation of additional academic, athletic, and extracurricular opportunities and look forward to the time when our students can engage in all activities.
New York State has already pushed back football till March 1. Oneida’s decision impacts soccer, field hockey, cross country and girls tennis. All deemed 'low-risk' by NYS. Some athletes worry a delay till spring would limit competition with most other schools playing this fall.
Durr, a three-sport athlete and organizer of Monday's walk-out, said this is more than a game. Sports offer motivation in the classroom and a sense of balance in a chaotic time. “It’s been a struggle on my mental health and I'm sure for many other athletes," he said. "We need to be together with our teammates, we need to be together with our coaches.”