School cancels pre-season trips in response to Omicron


Jorge Orvananos and Harper Rosenberg

The Upper Division (UD) Athletics Department announced before winter break that spring athletic teams will not travel for regularly scheduled pre-season trips over spring break, Director of Athletics Robert Annunziata said. Annunziata made the decision to cancel trips with the help of Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly, Coach Ray Barile, who has helped coordinate trips for many years, and spring athletics coordinator Coach Keri Panarelli, Annunziata said.

“Given the reality of the surge and our need to begin program planning for spring sports in March, it made sense to cancel the spring athletic trips,” Kelly wrote. “As with everything this year, we’ve gone into our various program initiatives with the hope of them happening, only to roll back certain initiatives when a health and safety concern presented.”

Before deciding to cancel spring trips, the Ivy Preparatory League (IPL) Heads of School and Athletic Directors met to decide whether or not to host spring trips, Kelly wrote.

“In the end, each school made the decision independent of the League,” Kelly wrote. Had the school allowed pre-season trips to Florida and California, they would only compete against other fully vaccinated schools, he wrote.

“The trip was coordinated so that we were only going to be playing teams that followed the same COVID protocols that we do,” Boys Varsity Lacrosse coach Joe Del Visco said. The team planned to continue to respect all school COVID protocols while in Florida, he said.

However, while planning the trip, it was uncertain whether or not schools outside of the IPL would have fully vaccinated athletes, Annunziata said. Therefore, Kelly and Annunziata made the decision to only compete with other IPL schools whom they knew would be fully vaccinated while in Florida, he said.

After the school decided to only compete with fully vaccinated schools, other IPL schools who had planned spring trips began to withdraw, leading Kelly to reconsider his decision, he wrote. “Two of the NYC schools we were counting on scrimmaging [against in Florida] made the decision not to go,” he wrote. “When you factor into our decision to compete only with schools that are fully vaccinated, losing two schools that met that criteria was problematic.”

The list of possible schools became too small to justify making the trip, Annunziata said. The value of going to Florida would have been to play schools outside of the IPL in preparation for the season, or at least to play against schools within the IPL safely, but since those schools also began to cancel their travel plans, making the trip no longer made sense, he said.

Varsity Golf team member Sofia Filardo (10) was not surprised that spring trips were canceled, she said. Filardo and her friends were very upset as they had been looking forward to this trip since last year, but they understand that the nature of the Omicron variant calls for these restrictions, she said. She thinks that trips will come back by the time she graduates and is grateful to go to a school that offers these experiences, she said. 

For seniors, the cancellations of spring athletic trips was upsetting, softball player Eliza Becker (12) said. Due to cancellations caused by COVID, Becker was only able to go on the softball trip freshman year, but she understands that safety comes first, she said. The trip is great for team bonding and improves each player’s skills, but she understands the school’s decision, she said.

Boys Varsity Lacrosse player Spencer Rosenberg (12) understands that the school has to keep its students safe, he said. Instead of the spring trip, the Boys Varsity Lacrosse team will have a four-day preseason practice during the second week of break, he said.

“​​Now, we’re going to be here for pre-season, and I’m disappointed that we’re not going to Florida, but I think it was the right decision given the circumstances,” Del Visco said.

Since the team will not travel to Florida, preseason practices will take place on campus, Del Visco said. He plans to host practices in the morning, followed by scrimmages, since that is all the team can do right now due to the recent surge in COVID cases, he said.

“We will, however, do our best to have a robust and fun-filled scrimmage week for our athletes on campus this March,” Kelly wrote.

Kelly feels comfortable continuing interscholastic competition since IPL meets are controlled and structured events and all participants in those games are agreeing to similar pandemic protocols as the school, he wrote.

“However, if athletics becomes a source of contagion, we’ll need to suspend that, too,” Kelly wrote.

Additionally, this year, the Athletics Department has been live-streaming athletic meets via the Horace Mann Athletics website in order to keep athletic competitions safe while permitting spectators, Annunziata said.