Bridge Year gives ‘flexibility’ to student-athletes affected by COVID

By on November 9, 2021 0

Jason Taylor isn’t quite sure where he fits except on the baseball field.

Taylor was to graduate from Jefferson Twp. High school last spring. Although he’s taking classes at County College of Morris right now, it hasn’t exactly happened on schedule either.

Taylor is one of a handful of student-athletes statewide enrolled in the Bridge Year pilot program.

Promulgated by Governor Phil Murphy on June 26, 2020, Bridge Year gives high school students in the 2021 and 2022 classes the opportunity to participate in spring activities, including track and field, after their graduation date. Students must meet all of the requirements to graduate from high school, but will not graduate with their peers.

Wood-Ridge High School is holding a press conference announcing that they will be playing Becton football at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio in September.  Wood-Ridge Mayor Paul Sarlo speaks during the press conference at Wood-Ridge High School in Wood-Ridge on Friday, January 10, 2020.

Instead, Bridge Year students will study at a community college in New Jersey. Considered non-graduate students, each is eligible for a maximum of nine credits in the fall semester and six in the spring. All New Jersey public institutions are required to accept these credits.

“It’s flexibility. There is no harm,” said Senator Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, who originally drew up the legislation.

“If this works for someone, God bless him. Do it.… It’s not just a sports program. There is also an academic component. It gives kids a chance to get college credit at their assets in a very, very economical fashion. “

COVID compensation

Bridge Year is a response to the closure of New Jersey schools in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the high school spring athletic season, which has reduced educational and athletic opportunities for students- athletes – as well as the ability to be recruited by college coaches.

Lamont Repollet, then New Jersey’s education commissioner and current president of Kean University, pointed out to Sarlo that prep schools were open to those who could afford it, but “middle and low-income people do not do not have this opportunity “.

“It’s like going to prep school, except prep school is now CCM, and I’m competing for a high school team,” said AJ McKay of Mount Olive, who described himself as “a jumper. who plays football for fun “.

“In terms of athletics, I would train all year round, and I think there are competitions that we can do individually. I am not allowed to do winter track for high school during the season. ‘Bridge year, but in the spring, I’m training with the team, competing with the team, all that. “

AJ McKay of Mount Olive competing in the long jump at the Morris County Championships on May 12, 2021 in Randolph.

The students had to declare their intentions in February, but the decision was not binding. Taylor, an outfielder, kept Bridge Year “in the back pocket” while trying to find a suitable college baseball program, but “it became my # 1 option.”

Taylor is studying English composition, US history, and algebra this fall, all of which were online until recently. Now Taylor has to go to CCM’s Randolph campus for classes four days a week.

In the spring, he plans to take classes in the morning so that he can practice and play Jefferson in the afternoon. He expects game days to be the same, but instead of going from high school to the field, he could be at the MCC or at the family home in Lake Hopatcong.

He compared it to students enrolled in a timeshare program at Morris County School of Technology, where they spend part of the day on the Denville campus.

“I don’t really know, technically. I don’t think it’s ever been really cleared up,” Taylor said of his status. “I guess academically (I’m) a freshman in college, but athletically a high school student. It’s a weird thing in Jersey.”

At the end of the 2020-21 school year, the NJDOE said 117 students had declared their intention to participate in Bridge Year. This is much more than the “30 to 50” Sarlo who should benefit from the pilot program.

There are six Bridge Year students enrolled at County College of Morris, all of whom take the maximum of nine credits at $ 145 each. Half have already registered for the spring semester courses.

Sussex County Community College does not have Bridge Year students.

“When the legislation first came out, there was a lot of discussion at the collegiate level about the impact it would have on operations, monitoring and so on. Said Cory Homer, SCCC Associate Vice President, Student Success and Institutional Effectiveness.

“But that didn’t materialize in terms of the numbers. We had a small number, and these were inquiries.… We were approached by guidance counselors and our counselors spoke to few students, but nothing has come to fruition. “

“Hold on to the house”

Morristown midfielder Annika Begley brings the ball onto the pitch against Chatham's Lara Kology Stars & Stripes South in the opening of the lacrosse season.  March 28, 2018. Chatham, New Jersey.

Although Lara Kology lost two lacrosse seasons at Chatham High School – second year to an anterior cruciate ligament tear in her second game and freshman against COVID – she already had a scholarship offer from the University of Florida in hand last spring.

Recruited primarily on the basis of a film before she got injured in April 2019 and the following winter club season, Kology had reclassified in 2022, a year later than her classmates from Chatham, including his twin brother Griffin Kology.

Lara was looking for a graduate program that would accept female lacrosse players when she found Bridge Year. She didn’t have a lot of options and was “really excited” to be able to “just stay at home in this area for another year”, rather than packing and moving several times.

Lara Kology is expected to sign a national letter of intent with Florida on Wednesday. Griffin Kology signed a year ago and is a freshman at the University of Richmond heading into his first NCAA lacrosse season.

Kaitlin Sleight, Lara’s advisor and Chatham varsity junior lacrosse coach, has been the intermediary between high school, the CCM and Florida.

“I saw (Griffin) go through (the recruiting process) and how happy he was, and I wanted to follow in those footsteps,” said Lara Kology, whose older brother, Kyle, plays lacrosse. University of Virginia. All three Kology siblings are advocates.

“He’s been a really good role model for me during that time, especially during COVID when we were on lockdown. There was already a lot of uncertainty back then.… It was a great opportunity. Why not grab it? “

Jane Havsy is a sports reporter for DailyRecord.com. For full access to live scores, the latest news and analysis, subscribe today.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @dailyrecordspts

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