Winter athletes can skip masks in playoffs if they go remote, then quarantine

Under+a+district+policy+for+winter+playoffs%2C+athletes+will+not+have+to+wear+masks+to+compete+and+can+play+teams+that+do+not+wear+masks%2C+as+long+as+the+Baldwin+athletes+move+to+remote+learning+and+quarantine+afterward.

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Under a district policy for winter playoffs, athletes will not have to wear masks to compete and can play teams that do not wear masks, as long as the Baldwin athletes move to remote learning and quarantine afterward.

Purbalite Staff

Baldwin winter sports athletes can compete in WPIAL playoffs without masks and against other teams that do not wear masks, but they will have to move to remote learning and stay there until 10 days after the playoffs end.

Throughout the regular season, the district has required Baldwin winter athletes to wear masks while competing, and Baldwin teams only have played other teams that also wear masks. More than 100 people had signed an online petition started by boys basketball parents that called for the district to drop one or both of those requirements.

One big question was whether a Baldwin team would have to forfeit a playoff game if it got paired up to play against a school that does not require its athletes to wear masks while competing. The district said last week that its policy would be re-evaluated for playoffs, and officials now have announced that playoffs policy.

“The move to remote would minimize the risk when it comes to competing against other districts that do not have the same requirements as the Baldwin-Whitehall School District,” Athletic Coordinator John Saras said in an email. “We feel that this decision will minimize the risk and allow for the four-day in-person instructional model to continue (for all other students).”

The masks decision is for WPIAL playoffs. The PIAA announced this week that at state playoffs, all athletes will have to wear masks.

Many athletes, including sophomore boys basketball player James Wesling, applauded the district’s decision for WPIAL playoffs.

“We finally get to have some type of a normal playoff experience and not a modified version,” Wesling said.

Wesling said he does not mind having to go remote, as long as he is able to play.

“It is a small sacrifice in order for our team to participate in playoffs,” Wesling said.

Senior teammate Joey Starzynski shared Wesling’s appreciation to be able to play.

“I’m excited for the playoffs and being able to play without masks.” Starzynski said. “Plus we get to play new teams in our section who never wore masks in the first place.”

Starzynski said that he is willing to make the sacrifice of going full remote for the duration of playoffs and 10 days after if it means he will be able to finish his senior season with playoff competition.

“I’m a little upset we have to go remote, but it will be worth it,” Starzynski said.

Our seniors deserve the best, and quarantining for a limited amount of time so they can see the playoffs is worth it.”

— Jordan Brophy

Senior girls basketball player Meghan Dryburgh agreed.

“It’s such a relief to everyone,” Dryburgh said. “I think our team and the boys team understand that if we want to win and go far in the playoffs, we have to be cautious and do whatever it takes to stay safe.”

Junior girls basketball player Morgan Altavilla is also excited to have the chance to participate against any team in the playoffs.

“The girls and I are extremely excited to play in the playoffs this year, especially because we have seven seniors on the team,” Altavilla said.

Senior basketball player Kayla Radomsky said playing with masks has been a challenge, so not having to wear them during playoffs should help.

“We have been wearing masks since the beginning of the season and it has been more difficult than playing without masks,” she said. “We will not be wearing masks during the playoffs, so we will see how that goes once we get to that point.”

Junior basketball player Jordan Brophy said it was good to know the Highlanders would be able to play any team during the playoffs. Not being able to play teams that don’t wear masks during the regular season has been hard, he said.

“It’s frustrating because our seniors are missing out on experiences,” Brophy said.

Brophy said he is willing to move to remote for playoffs.

“Our seniors deserve the best, and quarantining for a limited amount of time so they can see the playoffs is worth it,” Brophy said.

Not all students, though, said that students being able to play without masks is a good thing.

“I understand that it’s more beneficial to the athletes and since we are quarantining for two weeks it’s okay, but we are at the height of a pandemic and I feel wearing masks is important now more than ever,” junior basketball player Leyna Laurent said.

“I personally don’t like wearing masks for basketball, but if it’s for safety reasons, then I understand why it’s important,” Laurent said.

Senior Connor Lavelle said the move to remote makes sense as a tradeoff to play without masks in playoffs, even though there are drawbacks to remote learning.

“I just feel like a lot of kids pay more attention when they are actually in school,” Lavelle said.

Junior Haley Staab, who is on the gymnastics team, also had mixed feelings about the remote learning period.

“We’re going to have to quarantine for 10 days after WPIALs and then 10 days after states,” Staab said.

Senior Justin Bochter, along with the rest of the wrestling team, is just returning from a two-week quarantine. Now, individual wrestlers qualifying for postseason will need to move to remote again

“I am disheartened by it because it’s almost like choosing between my education or my sport,” Bochter said. “From an educational standpoint I’m not totally happy with the quarantine period, only because I learn best when engaged with the class versus being virtual. But the school is allowing us to participate knowing that other schools who don’t enforce masks for sports will be there, and they’re taking steps to protect the student body from possible exposure.”

Despite the sacrifices, Bochter is happy to have the opportunity to compete.

“I’m just grateful to be able to finish out my senior year, even though it is the complete opposite of how I imagined it,” he said.

Staff Writers Brooke Bayer, Lindsay Bonetti, Victoria DiCesare, Dom Ditoro, Grace Hampton, Mason Hurley, Abby Hutchinson, Sara Scheeser, and Ethan Spozarski contributed to this report.