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ON THE SCENE: Schools trying to keep students active

Freshman Haylie Buysse of Keene Valley is seen here playing on the Lake Placid modified softball team in the spring of 2019. She was supposed to be playing on the JV team this year. Photo provided by her mother, Natalie Buysse, receptionist at Keene Central School. (Photo provided)

The spring sports season for local schools and other activities are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that does not mean Lake Placid and Keene central schools are not working hard to keep their kids healthy. They are, yet the activities are not competitive and filling newspaper sports pages with the prowess in baseball, softball, tennis and track and field.

“The first piece of their physical health is food delivery,” said Lake Placid Central School Superintendent Roger Catania. “We are providing ongoing food delivery and food service for kids to ensure they have access to meals, breakfast, lunch and in some cases, additional provisions.”

The school has received a lot of donations that include everything from produce to supermarket gift cards to with many volunteering to help deliver the packages to people’s homes. At both schools, sports teams are on hold, waiting until Gov. Andrew Cuomo decides when or if schools can reopen. Physical education, however, is continuing — though in a different format. Gone are gym classes, and in their place are online learning and coaching from afar along with weekly assignments.

“Our PE teachers are structuring things for kids, which in many cases is requiring kids to keep daily logs and journals of what they are doing,” said Catania. “The teachers outline potential activities and challenges for the kids, activities that they are required to take.”

At both schools, the athletic directors are seeking ways to draw students away from the addictive presence of their computers and cellphones for at least a few hours a day to give attention to maintaining and improving their physical health.

Senior Hunter Buysse of Keene Valley is seen here playing on the Keene Central School varsity baseball team in the spring of 2019. He was supposed to be playing on the team this year. Photo provided by his mother, Natalie Buysse, receptionist at Keene Central School. (Photo provided)

“Each week I throw on a physical activity log where the kids try to be active all week,” said Matt Mills, Keene Central School athletic director. “They log their activity and send that back to me by the end of the week. I look it over, provide them feedback, and return it to them to do it again the following week. For (grades) 6 through 12, I have been posting different apps of at-home workouts where they are using their bodies. They don’t have to have any weights or anything like that. They’re doing squats, pushups, sit-ups, lunges, step-ups. I find videos online so they can put to use activities they can see. I also have the kids read and review interesting articles that revolve around fitness and nutrition. They are finding lots of great articles that are being posted by leading athletes on how they are responding to COVID-19.”

Athletic directors and school administrators agree that continuing physical education is essential, that the more active students are, the better they do in school. Their grades go up, their social well-being is increased, and they handle anxiety and stress a little better. Also, they recognize that COVID-19 is providing an education that people will be learning from for decades to come.

“These kids are living in a history lesson. They are living through something that will be taught in history down the road,” said Mills. “They should look at it in the light, hey, I maybe I’ll learn something new out of this. Maybe I’ll learn how to cook a new meal. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to spend more time with my family, to re-engage with my family and do things together. Hopefully they will see this as an opportunity to reconnect with each other and ourselves.”

Parents have been praising both schools for their continuing to stress physical education. At the same time, they acknowledge that their children are missing engaging with each other through sport.

“Not being able to exercise is a little bit weird for my kids,” said John Flanigan of Lake Placid. “My son Max misses track a lot. He’s very disappointed about the track season. My son James has been running the dogs in the yard behind our house. He’s also gotten together with his buddies to do a social-distancing run. One did 10 miles, and the others did five just through the woods. It’s also a nice time for my kids to spend time together with their mother, a yoga enthusiast. She and the kids do yoga together following along with online instruction provided by Robin at the Yoga Tree, the girls over at Hot Yoga, along others found on YouTube.”

Keene Central School Athletic Director Matt Mills (Photo provided)

Anne Marie Ward, whose twin daughters are seniors at Keene Central, echoed Flanigan’s praises for school support of athletics and appreciation for living in this region. She said her daughters are self-directed.

“Both of my daughters are running,” said Ward. “My daughter Camille would have been doing track right now. She is very sad that the track season is not happening. The track coach, who is from Lake Placid, sent the track workout to the kids online so she can keep up with that. She is now doing a combination of running and yoga. My other daughter, Charlotte, has been doing a lot of good, long bike rides along with a bit of running.”

While both schools are focused on students’ physical and emotional needs, they recognize that they haven’t been able to replicate social engagement through sport and all the benefits that come with competing, practicing and playing together.

“The kids miss the sports teams, which in smaller schools like ours become a big part of their social day,” said LPCSD Athletic Director John Burdick. “Sports allow them to do something outside of school without sitting in front of a computer or looking at their phone. That piece is missing. That’s the hard part. There is the camaraderie, dealing with negatives in a respectful situation that can become life lessons. For many, sports are the biggest positive that they have in their life. Additionally, for many students, sports are the carrot; they can’t participate in athletics if their academics aren’t up to par. For some, sports help keep them on the academic straight and narrow.”

While the hope is schools will open again this spring, teachers and administrators are planning that it may not. They understand the cost of not participating in team sports, and they are working hard to come up with ways of keeping kids connected.

Max and James Flanigan practice yoga at Lake Placid home with their mom Alison. (Photo provided)