District: No spectators at fall Buc home games

This 2017 file photo shows two Buccaneer football players in action during practice.

OSWEGO — Officials say the “safety of the community and students” was the driving force behind the Oswego City School District Board of Education's decision this week to allow no spectators at home sporting events for the fall season.

At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, district leaders said after examining the guidelines laid out by the state and Section III officials, the board concluded the safest and most cost-effective decision was to move forward without spectators.

“Safety is our number one goal and was the driving force behind this decision,” Superintendent Dr. Mathis Calvin III said following the meeting. “Our varsity athletes are set to go out and have all the benefits of a competitive season while we do everything to give them the safest possible environment to play.”

Board members discussed the benefits and potential risks that come with spectators before the split 4-3 vote. Board members Tom Ciappa, Lynda Sereno, Lisa Glidden and Jim MacKenzie comprised the prevailing coalition. If anything changes regarding the pandemic, these rules can be reviewed and updated, officials added.

Calvin added that the district is working to plan a senior night activity for athletes and their parents, and further details would be made available as they are finalized.

The Board of Education voted Sept. 18 to allow varsity athletes in the four sports allowed under Section III guidelines: soccer, cross country, boys golf and girls tennis. The decision came after hours of public and internal debate over the ramifications of COVID-19 on safety and cost.

Following the September vote, practices began the following week for dozens of student-athletes.

The four varsity sports are estimated to cost approximately $37,000 beyond what was initially budgeted due to COVID-19 and required regulations, Calvin said. With no spectators, his explanation went, the district would save more than $10,000 on costs with need for fewer screeners at games, less signage and additional field bleacher markings. Additional savings on security and other cleaning needs remain to be worked out.

Media and college recruiters can still access games, officials said, but they must make arrangements prior to the contest with Athletic Director Ronda Bullard.

A reduction in sports programs and a ban on spectators can never come at a good time, but the district’s ongoing $63 million capital project has simplified what at the beginning of the year looked to be a hectic, fraught season — but for a much different reason. With Wilbur Field at Oswego High School and its grandstands now torn down and a sparkling multi-purpose athletic facility going up several hundred yards away, board members expressed concern earlier in the year of how to distribute the limited practice and game field real estate to Buc teams. Those conversations now, it appears, are moot. Details regarding spectators at — or the potential existence of — winter or spring sports were not discussed.

A recording of Tuesday’s meeting is available on the WBUC YouTube page, YouTube.com/WBUCNY.

The Board’s next meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. virtually and can be viewed live on WBUC and YouTube.

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