The Wyandanch High School football team officially began practicing early Saturday after five members of the school board held an emergency conference call late Friday to authorize the start of the fall sports season, Wyandanch school board president Shirley Baker said.
“They’re excited, because they just want to play,” coach Josh Shields said. “They just wanted to be on the field. That was their whole goal. Today was a good day.”
Baker said the school board will meet Wednesday to formally vote to accept the donations to fund football, boys and girls soccer and girls junior varsity volleyball teams’ seasons. They held an emergency phone call on Friday, she said, “to reach a verbal consensus” so that the football team could officially begin practicing immediately and not risk forfeiting its first game.
“We had to get them as much time to get their practices in,” Baker said.
The district needs to raise $350,000 to save the school’s sports teams after all after-school programs were cut from the $69 million contingency budget plan adopted in June. Voters twice rejected proposals that would have raised taxes 40 percent and 20 percent, respectively. The district has yet to reach the full amount, but on Friday, acting Superintendent Gina Talbert said the school had enough to begin fall sports pending approval from the school board on Wednesday night.
Had the board waited until Wednesday night’s meeting, the football team would not have had enough time to get the state-mandated 10 days’ of practices in before their season opener Sept. 13 at Greenport High School.
“We’re excited that the board members were flexible enough to say, ‘Let’s make it happen now,’ so that it’s possible for the teams to start their seasons,” Talbert said on Saturday. “This is the best possible news for students to have coming back to school. The pressure was on because we wanted to do right by the kids.”
Talbert said the district has received $128,118 in private donations, which is enough to cover the fall sports teams. The Suffolk County Police Department announced it’s giving the school $150,000 as part of a state grant intended to help fight gangs. And Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told Newsday in an interview Friday he is “confident” the county has enough pledges from companies and individuals to cover the remaining $72,000.
“They’ve expressed that to us,” Talbert said, “and we’re elated.”