Point Beach parents want fall sports offered at Antrim

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH — A group of parents teamed up to confront the Point Pleasant Beach Board of Education Tuesday night over the cancellation of soccer and cross country programs for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students during the fall. 

The school board heard from 12 parents at the Sept. 22 meeting, who urged it to find some way to offer fall sports to students at G. Harold Antrim Elementary School.

The fall sports season was canceled Sept. 20 by the Monmouth County Athletic League [MCAL], which Point Beach participates in. With no league to participate in, the school followed suit and canceled its fall sports programs.

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Sean Hennessy, one of the parents leading the effort, has a son in seventh grade who would normally be running cross country. He thinks there could be another way for children to have their opportunity to participate.

“I understand that the league they usually play in is not participating, but there are enough other schools that are participating where [the district] could get something done,” said Mr. Hennessy. 

Mr. Hennessy said he has called around to neighboring communities who are continuing to have fall sports, including Point Pleasant Borough and Manasquan. He noted that high school students in Point Beach are playing fall sports, so only the middle schoolers are being excluded.

“There are schools out there that are participating. that we could participate against,” he said. “I’m sure that if the Point Beach superintendent or athletic director called up some of those other schools that are having sports and tried to put a schedule together, I’m sure they could work something out.”

“I just feel like these kids are missing out on so much,” said Mr. Hennessy.

Pat Cavanaugh has three children who would have participated in sports at the school this fall. He urged the board to let them take advantage of the fall outdoor sports season.

“We don’t know what the future holds,” Mr. Cavanaugh said. “I would be really shocked if we were able to get our season in in the enclosed areas since nothing is able to be conducted indoors.”

Mr. Hennessy and Mr. Cavanaugh  told the board that other parents would be willing to join them in organizing fall sports activity. 

“We’re not asking the board of education to take all the burden,” Mr. Cavanaugh said. “We have people who are ready, willing and able to volunteer and help out in any way that we can to see if this can happen for the kids.”

Mr. Hennessy’s sister, Kristin Hennessy, has added her voice to the effort.

“We feel that particularly in middle school, the board of education and school administration should be doing everything possible within their power to make a good faith effort to bring back the fall sports programs,” she said.

She believes that athletics are significant in education and their emotional wellbeing especially during the pandemic.

“It’s just been loss after loss for our student-athletes and to have found out that both soccer and cross country are being canceled, it begs the question, how much loss can these kids endure?” Ms. Hennessey said.

Superintendent Will Smith said the school can not hold fall sports at this time if it hopes to stick to its cohort strategy of in-person learning.

“True cohorting prohibits cohorts from mixing with other cohorts throughout the day,” he said. “The cohort approach is most evident in the ways we have restructured recess, physical education, academic electives and lunch at our elementary school.”

Mr. Smith said the school is aware of the positive impact the school athletics program offers students. 

“But it also invites athletes from several grades and classrooms [and thus, several cohorts] to participate in very close proximity to one another, thus immediately invalidating the cohort approach we are sustaining in nearly every other regard,” he said.

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