Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order directing all schools in New York to close by March 18 for two weeks ending April 1, which was then extended through May, pending a decision to close for the rest of the year. The 180-day instructional requirement was temporarily waived; however, school districts were required to continue instruction from home, online.
“The single most effective way to slow the spread of this virus is to reduce close contacts, and that includes in our schools,” Cuomo said in March.
Just ahead of Easter, mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City’s public schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year. However, according to Cuomo, Long Island school closures will be addressed on a regional basis.
Then, earlier this month, Nassau and Suffolk school superintendents made the decision to cancel all spring sports indefinitely. The season began in March with hopes of continuing a smaller or modified season over the summer months, which is no longer the case.
Those hit the hardest are arguably high school seniors, who will not only (most likely) miss out on milestone events like prom, but also smaller events like senior day and class trips. Then, there is the question of how local districts will hold graduation. Will it be virtual? Will students be able to attend, but with no guests?
Both William Floyd and South Country school districts have not confirmed any cancellations for prom or graduation, nor have they released alternative plans as of yet.
William Floyd boys varsity lacrosse head coach Desmond Megna explained that lacrosse has become a year-round sport and his players, of which about 10 are seniors, have been practicing and prepping every weekend prior to the spring season, three to four hours a day. The season started in early March; however, the team was only able to hold practice before the shutdown, just two days before their first scrimmage.
What is most disappointing? Breaking the routine, according to senior co-captain Andrew Bilotti.
“The hardest part is [losing] the expectation of waking up every day ready to grind and ready to compete for a chance to make history in your program,” he said. “It was really rough at first, but most of us have aspirations to play in college.” According to Bilotti, he and most of his teammates haven’t given up and have been sticking to practicing, working out at home and going for solo runs. The team has also been in constant contact via text and have plans to schedule future Zoom meetings.
“We need to keep getting in what we need to play at the next level... and keep our sanity,” he added of the makeshift workouts.
Megna said he and his fellow coaches have compared notes and offered workouts and calisthenics for athletes training at home. Students have also been submitting video clips of their own personally created backyard “gyms.”
“They have become pretty resourceful,” he said, explaining that it’s harder to be self-motivated as an athlete used to playing with a team. “I feel terrible for my seniors, but this is just a bump in the road and there is light at the end of the tunnel. They all worked so hard to get to college—that was always the ultimate goal.”
Bilotti will be attending Queens Univer- sity of Charlotte in North Carolina, playing lacrosse and studying clinical psychology.
“If there is anything, I pride myself on, it’s my optimism. This is a step back, but I always tell myself for every step back, take two steps forward,” he said, offering words of encouragement for his teammates. “So, don’t worry about the one step back and don’t skip a beat. After all, this is a great time to spend with family.”
This year would have also been Bellport High School varsity softball coach Kate Cutrone’s fifth year coaching. The season, she said, started on March 9, but they were only able to hold try-outs and the first week of practice. The team, however, started winter workouts in January in preparation for the spring season, and seniors anticipated making the playoffs this year as they have every year since ninth grade. “It was a big shift in our program history and it was a big deal for the seniors to get back to playoffs one more time,” Cutrone said.
In the meantime, the team has been communicating and coach Cutrone has been sending out drills and workouts to do at home through Google Classroom.
“It has been a pleasure to coach them and a privilege; they have left a lasting impact on the program,” she added of her current seniors. “We couldn’t ask for more of them than what they have given to the team.”
Two of her seniors will be going on to play softball in college, including pitcher Sam Rieb and catcher Sofia Gannon. But for the others, this was the last opportunity to play. However, come summer, Cutrone said, the sports programs still have plans to celebrate their seniors with a barbecue or possibly custom posters.
Reib will be attending Iona College to play Division 1 softball and study speech pathology. She has been playing softball since she was 12 years old and losing her senior year is heartbreaking.
“Just knowing how much our senior class has looked forward to this last season and how much we have worked to get to where we are is insane,” she said, stating that the feeling is surreal. “It’s like everything we have worked for just goes down the drain.”
However, she said, she understands the circumstances and feels lucky to be able to play again for the next four years in college.
“I was mostly looking forward to getting to play with my best friends for one last ride,” she added. “Our senior year was supposed to be the best season; our team has improved tremendously, and I am so proud of everyone who stepped up in big situations when we needed it the most.”
As for Gannon, she said not only has she missed out on her last softball season, but also the chance to make more memories with her friends. She has been playing since seventh grade and was excited for the season, especially since her younger sister was pulled up to play varsity this year from eighth grade. Next year, she will be attending Mount Saint Mary to play softball and study exercise science and biology.
Words of encouragement? “I hope that during this time, all of my fellow senior athletes can keep a positive mindset and see that the future has so much in store for us,” said Gannon.
William Floyd student council advisor Jackie Giacalone said she has never experienced anything like this in her eight years as advisor. However, after speaking with the high school principal, she promised that nothing is off the table as of yet. Prom was planned for June as was/is graduation and their senior trip. Graduation is still being worked out with options for virtual or no guests, while the senior trip to Great Adventure was completely cancelled due to closures.
“We will at the very least get graduation, even if it’s super delayed,” she said, stating that the school has plans to talk more about it this week. “Our senior class council has been amazing and just held on, looking at everything with the glass half full.”
The about 10 senior council members meet virtually and have already launched an Instagram account, @WFHS.2020, featuring senior profiles. Thus far, over 80 seniors have been added. The William Floyd Class of 2020 has about 550 students. They also have plans to create personalized lawn signs and display them on William Floyd Parkway.
Student council members Maille Bowerman and Makaylei Thrane have been the two mostly working on the Instagram posts. According to Bowerman, one of the biggest disappointments was losing the senior trip they worked so hard to gain back.
“And this is really trivial, but we were really looking forward to making class shirts,” she added, stating that they are not sure how they would design them or distribute them if they were made.
As for prom, the theme was supposed to be the Roaring ‘20s, kicking off the new decade.
“We were all really excited about that and already got dresses,” Bowerman said, though nothing has been officially cancelled.
“We hope it will be moved to late June or July so we can still have that recognition,” she said. Of graduation, she added, “We will take whatever we can at this point, but I think we have all kind of accepted it’s a very real possibility it will be cancelled.”