MERIDEN, CT (WFSB) – Fall football may be canceled for most high school teams, but one school district is allowing its teams to play.
On Tuesday night, the Meriden Board of Education voted to allow its two high school football teams to use their facilities and equipment.
The city recently permitted the teams to play and now they have the green light from the board.
“I’m so happy for the kids. It was so great to tell them that we got approved for the equipment. It was a huge relief for them,” said Kevin Frederick, Maloney High School football coach.
Frederick said the decision meant a world of difference for his players.
“The game does so much for these kids, so now to provide these seniors with the same opportunity, I’m the happiest guy in the world,” Frederick said.
Late last week, the City of Meriden announced it would permit teams to use city fields to limit the risk of COVID-19 exposure. It said it recognized football will go on, whether it’s through private or club teams.
Now, the Meriden Board of Education took it a step further and allowed the use of district equipment and use of facilities for independent football.
“Our kids have worked hard since July. They have followed the rules. [Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference] gave them guidelines saying this is what’s going to happen, this is what you can do over the summer, then it changed, then it changed again,” said Robert Kosienski Jr., a board member.
The decision fell into the board’s lap after some people pointed out students will be signing up for independent leagues without access to PPE or facilities.
Meriden health officials are not recommending high school football play, but they’ve put together a list of strict guidelines for players.
The Board of Education is now on board with the plan as well.
“We’re asking the board to let the families make the choice for their kids, no different than the family had to make when they chose distance learning or in-person,” said Superintendent Mark Benigni.
Not everyone agrees with the decision. One board member casted a ‘no’ vote.
The Meriden Federation of Teachers said the district needed to follow state Department of Public Health guidelines, which classified football as a high-risk sport.
“With a global pandemic raging, it unfortunately appears that only an increase in cases could possibly come from this decision,” said Lauren Mancini-Averitt.
Ultimately, the majority of board members voted 'yes' and Maloney and Platt football teams will start playing as early as next week.
They’re looking for three other teams to join their conference to play.
The CIAC said it is considering a spring season for football with practice starting in February.