SHS Fitness Center Reopens Amid Pandemic


Scarsdale Schools

Some of the alterations made to the fitness center in order to abide by the new safety protocols.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Scarsdale this past spring and closed the high school, the Fitness Center closed as well. Even when school reopened in September, the Fitness Center remained closed until Thursday, November 5th, when SHS reopened it for training. 

On Monday, November 2nd, parents and students of the school received an email from Ray Pappalardi, the Director of Physical Education, Health and Athletics in Scarsdale that featured this significant announcement.

As the email describes, the Fitness Center will be open every day of the school week from 3:30 PM to 5:45 PM. Cohort A will have access to the center on Monday and Thursday afternoons, while B will have access on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are open to both cohorts alternating every week. There are three sessions a day, one from 3:30 PM to 4:15 PM, the second from 4:15 PM to 5 PM, and the third from 5:00 PM to 5:45 PM. If a student is interested in exercising at the center, they must sign up ahead of time through Google Classroom. The codes are included in the informational email. Having lived through the previous nine months of the pandemic, students understand they must additionally complete sanitary guidelines upon arrival. 

Pappalardi explained that once New York state regulations allowed for public gyms to open, the athletics department began examining protocols, including those outlined in the Department of Health guidance documents for schools and fitness centers. They worked out a plan to proceed with weight and cardiovascular training. 

The individuals faced with producing an effective restart plan for the high school fitness center overcame the challenge of how to open it to the entire school student population. This group concluded that 24 students per session maintaining 12-foot social distancing may exercise inside the center safely. Each student-athlete in a session works through a prescribed program to further ensure their protection and the protection of others. Moreover, the fitness room is sanitized between every session and is disinfected every day. 

Pappalardi commented on the multiple methods used to maintain social distancing within the facility. Spaces are marked on the inside of the center and large equipment within the gym has been utilized as landmarks to indicate where training may commence. Certain areas within the training room are closed off, specifically areas with certain cardio machines. These areas are not to be used at any time. 

The Fitness Center’s reopening may spark curiosity as to why some outdoor sports seasons such as football have been postponed since the Fitness Center is a compact indoor space with shared equipment. The rationality is that football is considered high risk by New York State. Football is not yet allowed to compete, so it has been moved to an alternate season. The decision to reopen the Fitness Center follows the guidelines provided by the state, whereas contact sports such as football are still prohibited through no fault of the school. 

These advancements within the athletic department have influenced both its staff and director to be hopeful for the future of the school’s sports seasons. “We are hoping that protocols we have in place for the Fitness Center will serve as a template for our other activities,” explained Pappalardi. “We are happy to start some of the other indoor sports with these restrictions in place because it allows us to start slowly stepping in the right direction towards getting our athletes back into activity and their sport.”