BERNARDSVILLE, NJ — Coaches of boys basketball, girls basketball and fencing at Bernards High School were approved to receive stipends from the Somerset Hills School District for the winter sports season, but the Board of Education was still unsure of how and when the winter season would actually proceed.

Boys basketball head coach Tim Palek and girls basketball head coach Bisconti each were approved to receive $9,500, and Jared Hammond, the head fencing coach, was approved to be paid $7,200 by the Board of Education.

The winter season for these sports normally gets under way just before Christmas, but the NJSIAA delayed the start of the season by more than a month back in November. Now, the boys' and girls' basketball teams aren't scheduled to start their regular season schedules until Jan. 26, with fencing to follow on Jan. 27.

Sign Up for Bernardsville & Bedminster Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The hockey team, which is funded independently and not by the school district, already pushed the scheduled start of its season back from this weekend until Jan. 25 because of COVID-related complications.

"My overarching concern would be some consistency across all sports, that there's not a sense that there is something happening in one arena that is not happening in another," Somerset Hills Superintendent of Schools Gretchen Dempsey said last week. "We had some conversations about when we are remote, whether there is an opportunity for sports to ever be face to face. My understanding is if you have no in-person instruction happening, you should have no face-to-face sports happening, either."

Board member Samantha Frenda said, "If the union is going to support and back the coaches that they cover, to do indoor sports without masks in gymnasiums, that ... it would be safe to be in person in the classroom. As we continue to approve more indoor sports, I think it's a different conversation with outdoor (sports)."

"I do, too," Dempsey said. "It always gets back to what is our intent when we make these hard decisions to say we're not here for in-person instruction. We would all much prefer that and we go back to the medical guidance we have."

District schools were back in session with a cohort-based, hybrid setup this week that included part-time, in-class learning. The status of winter sports would depend on not only whether schools are conducting classes in person, but whether there were any positive COVID cases or contact-tracing issues on the teams themselves.