Monroe Co. student athletes on the sidelines as schools cancel outdoor activities

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Thousands of student athletes are sitting on the sidelines after New York State postponed dozens of regional and state championships.

In Monroe County, districts also cancelled sports, recess, and field trips as the smoke continues to linger throughout the northeast. As Monroe County’s Air Quality Index (AQI) hovers above 150 in even the clearest towns, districts everywhere have shut down sports, closing their athletic fields.

The guidance to do so came from both state and local officials. Governor Kathy Hochul released a statement Wednesday afternoon encouraging districts to close, saying in part:

“My administration has been in contact with the cities of Syracuse, Rochester and New York. I support their decisions and the decisions of other districts to suspend outdoor school activities and strongly urge those who have not yet done so to follow suit.”

For roughly 3,000 student athletes, the cancellations interfere with dozens of games. In Section V — which covers Rochester and the Finger Lakes — Pittsford, Penn Yan, Victor and more are all waiting to play semifinal lacrosse games. Dr. Robert Zoyas is the executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA).

He and his team have been working around the clock with districts to relocate and reschedule dozens of games, looking at air quality index levels to determine when kids can get back outside.

“We’ve set the [AQI] threshold at 100 because our national governing body issued a position statement that said that when the air quality does exceed 100, that it really is an unsafe range,” he said.

Dozens of female flag football players are also waiting to hear when their season will continue. While some can be moved inside, the Section V director told News10NBC that very few spaces can accommodate games without altering the game play. For other parts of the state, Dr. Zoyas said that some games simply can’t be moved inside — such as baseball and softball.

But both he and the Section V director emphasized that student athletes will get to finish out their games.

“We have student athletes that have been working all school year to get to this point in the season, they deserve the opportunity to participate,” Dr. Zoyas said. “They’ve earned the opportunity to participate, and we have to try to find a way to make that happen.”

As the smoke continues to linger, NYSPHSAA is checking AQI almost hourly to see when they can get kids back outside safely.

“To even consider putting students in a position where their health could be jeopardized is something were not going to do,” Dr. Zoyas said.

To check your own neighborhood’s AQI, click here.