“Bridge Year” proposed to give NJ high school juniors and sophomores an additional spring season
As each day passes, it is becoming more likely there will not be a spring season of high school athletics in New Jersey. For the Class of 2020, it would a bitter and unexpected end to their careers but something is in the works to extend the careers of current sophomores and juniors.
According to a report by NorthJersey.com, Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) has authored a proposal that would give student-athletes in the Classes of 2021 and 2022 an additional spring season of eligibility in what has been termed a “Bridge Year”. It would allow those athletes to attend a New Jersey community college after high school graduation and participate in spring sports.
The Bridge Year proposal would give athletes who miss the 2020 spring season due to the COVID-19 pandemic one more spring season, amounting to something similar to a postgrad year for prep schools. However, in this case, athletic eligibility would be granted only for the spring season and not an entire year. There is also a possibility the “Bridge Year" could be offered to the Class of 2023 (current freshmen) but that would be up to the Department of Education.
Seniors were not included in the proposal because most already have post-graduation plans to attend college or begin full-time employment, the report also stated.
Students interested in taking a “Bridge Year" would be required to notify their current high school of their intentions seven days before the start of their senior year. After graduating high school, students would need to enroll at a New Jersey community college as a non-matriculated student and take 12 college-level credits during both the fall and spring semesters. Students would be required to maintain a 2.25 GPA. They could also apply to take their college board exams as they would during their senior year of high school.
Additionally, there would be a reduced rate charged by the colleges and students who qualify under the Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) would incur no cost.
Athletes who choose to take a “Bridge Year” would have to return to the school they attended as juniors to participate in spring sports along with joining clubs and take part in theatrical performances. Students cannot turn 20 at any time during the “Bridge Year” and students cannot transfer to a different high school.
The proposal has the support of the Department of Education and New Jersey college presidents, according to Sarlo. It was also examined by The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, according to NorthJersey.com.
Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to make an announcement by Friday on whether New Jersey schools will reopen this academic year. The Bridge Year Proposal will move forward pending that announcement.
“I believe this could become necessary if we are not going to return to school in a timely manner,” Sarlo told NorthJersey.com. “If we go back next week, we don’t have a need for it, but right now, it looks like the third and fourth marking periods are gone.”
“I believe sophomores and juniors are the ones most significantly impacted here. They don’t realize it, but these are critical years for higher education careers and they’ve been impacted through no fault of their own. As the world has closed off so many options to us, any bridge to a new place is a welcome sight.”
The plan has not been completely met with open arms, however. Several social media users on the Shore Sports Network's channels did not agree with the plan, even going as far as to call it "a terrible idea.". Shore Conference president Rich Carroll, the athletic director for the Middletown School District, also expressed concerns.
"I think it's a novel idea of trying to give an opportunity to many who lost it this spring and believe the sponsors have their hearts in the right place," Carroll said. "However, my first thought is you are taking other opportunities away from rising athletes that would be in the school at that time. These are unprecedented times where the world has come to a standstill and everyone has suffered. There is no way to get what these athletes lost back, but this proposal does the same thing to other student-athletes. What is the answer to that rising sophomore or junior who now has to sit behind a "Bridge Year" senior? There are other questions that come to mind that need to be addressed as well such as academic eligibility, what does this do to the student's NCAA eligibility, etc."
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