Leonia Middle School and Leonia High School have called off sports for the fall season. The Bergen County schools join a growing list of other districts including Carteret, Dover, Teaneck, Piscataway and West Windsor-Plainsboro that have made the decision to cancel.

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“It is time to make the pro-active decision to end our fall sports season,” wrote superintendent Edward Bertolini Ed.D. in a letter posted on the school’s website. “I know this will be an unpopular decision for our student-athletes and their families. However, our role as leaders of the Leonia School District is to make decisions that protect our students and staff members.”

On Thursday, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (NJSIAA) released its Return-to-Sports Plan. Under the plan, outdoor fall sports will begin September 14 while indoor sports – gymnastics and girls volleyball – will be moved to a new special season.

“We’re extremely appreciative of the support and guidance from Governor Phil Murphy, Senator Paul Sarlo and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly,” said NJSIAA COO Colleen Maguire in the update. “Our kids need structured activity, and we believe that education-based high school sports is the best way to provide it.  Giving teenagers extra motivation to stay COVID-free promotes healthy outcomes for everyone.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said the NJSIAA would make the final decision regarding fall sports.

“I am encouraged that most of our fall sports are played outdoors,”  Murphy said in his press conference on Monday. “We know that outdoor activities are increasingly safer than indoor ones. With the expanses of fields, we can also ensure proper social distancing among parents and spectators and also among student-athletes on the sidelines.”

Murphy said schools have the right to cancel their seasons, and that he would not go against those decisions. He also made it clear that whether students participated in remote or in-person instruction, they would still have the right to participate in their school sports programming.

And while Murphy cleared high school football to take place, some school districts have decided to keep students off the field. The popular Piscataway Chiefs football team has canceled its season.

“Heartbreaking…just heartbreaking,” commented one poster on the team’s Facebook page. “Some have worked so hard, and have been so committed. What a shame.”

“Wow…the scholarship opportunities lost is tough,” wrote another commenter.

Teaneck High School has suspended fall sports as has Monmouth University. UConn has canceled its 2020-2021 season after six football student-athletes tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said that a return to sports for the 35 to 45 million youth ages 6 to 18 that participate is feasible and beneficial and that the risks must be mitigated.

“Re-engaging in a sports activity with friends has both physical and psychological health benefits for children and adolescents,” said the AAP. “Participating in sports allows youth to improve their cardiovascular health, strength, body composition, and overall fitness. Mentally, youth may experience benefits from the increased socialization with friends and coaches as well as from the return to a more structured routine. These psychological and physical benefits can help support their developmental growth. Exercise also has immune system benefits.”

The AAP said testing for COVID-19 among student-athletes before playing sports is discouraged unless a student presents symptoms or has been directly exposed to someone with the virus.

Do your kids play a sport? Will they be playing this fall? Let us know in the comments.

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