Photo: George Faella

Interscholastic sports and music programs will return to Riverhead schools this spring.

The Riverhead Board of Education voted unanimously tonight to fund spring interscholastic sports, music programs and high school clubs.

The $379,139 total pro-rated cost of the reinstated programs will be paid out of the 2020-2021 budget line for health insurance expenses, according to officials. Health insurance costs proved to be lower than the amount budgeted and the excess amount will cover the cost of the restored programs, officials said.

The district will fund varsity, junior varsity and middle school sports, high school clubs from March 1 through June 1 and K-12 music activities during that same period.

Trustee Chris Dorr, an outspoken proponent of funding interscholastic sports since the district was forced into a contingency budget by taxpayers this year, made the motion to approve the funding.

“The children have suffered enough,” Dorr said, noting that spring season athletes already lost one season to COVID this year. “This will give them a glimmer of hope.”

Dorr said the board had to make a decision on spring sports at tonight’s meeting — the last regular meeting scheduled before the holiday break — in order to meet a Section XI deadline for the spring season.

Officials still don’t know whether state COVID restrictions will allow spring sports to be played — and that will depend on the trajectory of the virus spread, which is surging in New York and across the country. Most fall sports were canceled due to COVID and abbreviated winter sports season is supposed to take place after the New Year — again, depending on the status of the pandemic. The spring sports season, also abbreviated due to COVID-related scheduling changes, will take place from early May to mid June.

Officials also don’t know whether state aid will be be cut in the middle of the school year, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned would happen — by as much as 20% — if a federal relief package did not include direct aid to state and municipal governments.

Trustee Susan Koukounas said should the board be faced with “tough decisions in February” members don’t sacrifice academic programs that build student literacy.

The board voted unanimously to approve the budget shift to allow sports and extracurriculars to be reinstated.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.