WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional School District is making winter plans for its athletic programs.
On Monday, Athletic Director Lindsey von Holtz proposed a plan to the School Committee for four competitive varsity teams in the upcoming season: boys and girls basketball and boys and girls cross country skiing.
Von Holtz said Mount Greylock in years past has offered opportunities for its students to compete on cooperative teams in ice hockey, wrestling and swimming, but for various reasons those are not in the cards this winter. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has moved competitive wrestling to the spring due to restrictions that prevent competitions this winter. The county's three "host" schools for co-op hockey are not offering the sport. And Mount Greylock decided it is better not to mix its student population with those of other schools for swim practices and meets.
She reported that while the Mount Greylock School Committee was the first in the county to discuss winter sports, her expectation is that as many as six schools in the Berkshire County League will offer basketball this winter.
Although basketball and Nordic ski seasons are possible, they will have a very different look this year.
Practices will begin on Dec. 14, but there will not be any competitions until Jan. 8 at the earliest, von Holtz said.
"There will be a period of time when we are just here at Mount Greylock, being active, but it gets us past Thanksgiving and the holiday break, and we'll see what things look like in January before competing against other schools," she said.
Nordic ski will not have its traditional Saturday meets where all the county schools (plus teams from Connecticut and the Pioneer Valley) converge on a single course. Rather, they will host "dual meets" like the kind seen in cross country running this fall. And Berkshire County's state championship contenders, Mount Greylock and Lenox, will not have a chance to compete in a state meet as the MIAA already has canceled postseason tournaments in all winter sports.
Von Holtz also said county officials are thinking about weekly school matchups that see both basketball teams and cross country skiing teams from School A compete against School B in the same week, in order to prevent multiple interactions among school cohorts during the same time frame.
Unlike in the fall, when the administration needed School Committee approval to start interscholastic athletics when the school was fully remote, there was no committee action required Monday on the winter plan. But von Holtz did ask for a vote of confidence from the School Committee.
It voted 6-1 to go forward with the plan she outlined. Member Michelle Johnson, who expressed concern about having indoor practices during potential periods when the schools are forced to switch to fully remote learning, was the lone dissenting voice.
Von Holtz and Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said if the school district moves to fully remote learning for any reason, the administration would re-evaluate the athletic program.
"I don't know if any of us would argue with [Johnson's] logic that it wouldn't make sense [to continue athletics during remote learning]," McCandless said. "A yes vote tonight wouldn't be set in stone for the remainder of the winter season or the school year. It's all situationally specific."
Von Holtz, who also directs the middle-high school's co-curricular programs, said Mount Greylock's clubs have maintained a high level of activity during the hybrid instruction phase, when only half of the school's student body can be in the building on any given day.
The school started a debate club this fall to satisfy the interest of high schoolers who enjoyed the middle school's annual eighth-grade debates, and two of its politically active student groups, Students Organizing Change and the Youth Environmental Squad, are meeting regularly; the former donated $500 to help provide Thanksgiving meals to local families, and the latter organized a neighborhood cleanup earlier this fall.
"We have two different performance groups," von Holtz said. "We thought we'd lose the normal Fall Festival of Shakespeare, so we created a fall Shakespeare program with 20 students holding virtual and in-person meetings, focusing on Shakespeare scripts. … [Shakespeare & Company's] Fall Festival ended up having something for seniors specifically, so we have six participating through that. They hope to have a performance the week of Dec. 14, probably virtually."
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