April 22, 2021
By Nickolas Medina
High school sports have all been disrupted as a result of the pandemic leading Governor Murphy to sign P.L. 2020 c. 41 into law. This act, which was signed on June 26, 2020, allows members of the 2021 and 2022 graduating classes to delay graduation for one year to remain at their school and participate in the spring sport they missed in 2020. If a person chooses to take part in this program, they are still allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies. However, their diploma is not given to them until after completion of the bridge year.
Members of this program may not turn 20 years old at any point during the bridge year, unless specifically allowed to by their individualized learning plan. They must keep at least a 2.0 GPA in order to stay enrolled, as well as complete a minimum of 12 credits of college-level courses at a local community college.
Some argue that having 19- or even 20-year-olds compete against incoming freshmen will ruin the fairness of the competition.
Junior Brandon Rivera competes in track and said he does not perceive the program as unfair and can be a valuable learning experience.
“I feel like as a freshman, you’re coming in knowing the difference in experience with other players who were already upperclassmen. It helps prepare the freshmen for the tougher competition,” Rivera said. “I just feel like those seniors have one more year to shine while the freshmen have four.”
Rivera said he has faith this program may shed some light on the talent of athletes who were otherwise robbed of showing off their skill.
“I feel like it’s great for young, up-and-coming athletes who peaked their senior year but couldn’t showcase it due to the pandemic,” Rivera said.
Junior Gianna Scillia plays volleyball and said she understands the reason for the pilot program but would not participate in it herself.
“I mean, I’d be bummed too if my senior year spring sport was gone, but they already graduated. I wouldn’t want to play with high schoolers when I should be competing against college students,” Scillia said.
Scillia said she is not sure how students in this program will be positively viewed by organizations and clubs looking for talent.
“Even if they go out on their field and stomp the other team, how much does that really mean? Going up against far less experienced students can’t possibly be the best demonstration of their skills,” Scillia said. “What happens when you run into a team that is stacked full of seniors and bridge year students? Younger students will never be able to show themselves off there.”
“I feel like it’s great for young, up-and-coming athletes who peaked their senior year but couldn’t showcase it due to the pandemic.”
Supervisor of Athletics Mr. Radigan said even before the pandemic, 19-year-olds were competing in high school sports.
“The 19-year-old rule is not something new. As long as students do not turn 19 prior to September 1st, they are eligible to participate,” Radigan said.
Radigan said students should neither rush into this program nor immediately turn away from it.
“Students need to have a conversation with their parents and look at the pros and cons of the program and make the best choice for them,” said Radigan.