SPARTA, NJ – The Sparta High School football program has been suspended for two weeks following news of two student athletes testing positive. While the students will not be identified, the district reports the players have had "high number of close contacts during the practices."
"We are disappointed that the virus has interrupted the football season, however our first and highest priority is the health and safety of our coaches and our student-athletes," acting Superintendent Patrick McQueeney said. We encourage our entire school community to continue to be vigilant and take sensible precautions such as avoiding large gatherings, wearing a mask, and maintaining appropriate social distancing to limit the spread of the virus.
"The school has been working closely with the department of health, and in following state and NJSIAA protocol, members of the team are required to self-quarantine for fourteen days," Sparta High School Principal Ronnie Spring said. "We hope that after that time period, we will be able to continue the season. We also want to remind all of our students to continue to practice social distancing and conduct themselves in a safe manner."
McQueeney announced in a letter to the community last week, two students had tested positive for the coronavirus; one was an athlete and the other a student who had attended a “social gathering.” A thrid students, also a member of the football team, was reported to have tested positive on Sunday.
The teams and other people who had direct contact with these students are being contacted. The individual students will be guided by their local health department and personal.
Regarding the football team, the district is following protocols established by the NJSIAA. The protocol for “one student or coach on the same team that test positive need to quarantine for 14 days. Further “any student or coach in close contact with the infected person two days prior to symptoms or positive test must also quarantine for 14 days and monitor their symptoms.”
The NJSIAA protocol for this scenario allows for the team to play, however the whole Spartan team has been practicing together, so they will all have to quarantine.
Sparta will miss a scrimmage schedule for Thursday, September 24 against Newton and their season opening game on the road against Lakeland Regional High School scheduled for October 2.
If there are no additional positive tests for coaches or players the team will be able to play their home opener on Cassels Field against Jefferson. That Friday night game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
NJSIAA guidelines for fall high school sports, announced on August 20, allowed practices to begin on Monday, September 14 thought heat acclimatization for field hockey and football was allowed to begin on Friday, September 11. Summer workouts were held beginning July 13 with a prescribed two-week break from August 29 through September 13.
Teams were allowed to schedule one preseason scrimmage within seven day of the start of the season, except for football which was allowed to begin scrimmaging on September 24.
The news of positives cases came from acting Superintendent Patrick McQueeney in three letters. The first letter came on Friday and the second followed on Saturday and one on Sunday. All of the letters said the students that tested positive had been learning remotely and the lack of contact inside schools meant the Sussex County Division of Health did not require the school district to send any notification.
“In our efforts to ensure the health and safety of our Spartan Learning Community, we felt it was important to share this information with you,” McQueeney said.
The second letter also mentioned a staff member had been quarantined because of exposure to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, though the staff member has since had a negative test result. The letter said the two students who have tested positive were not related.
The third letter provided additional information about the students, to allow the community to have a better understanding of the circumstances of the positive tests.