EAST SETAUKET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Fifteen students from a Long Island high school have been barred from a state science competition after this winter’s brutal weather played a role in paying their registration fee on time.

As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, the students at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket worked all year to compete and could have been eligible to earn college scholarships if they placed in the state’s Science Olympiad.

However, in an administrative mix-up, the state contacted the wrong person at the school with notification about the deadline for the team’s $150 registration fee. When the team’s coach finally learned about it, he overnighted the check, but it was delayed because of a snowstorm and arrived after the Feb. 28 due date.

The Ward Melville team is a perennial power in science fairs. They won last year’s state title and have advanced to the national tournament each of the past five years.

“We’re out because of a delayed check,” the coach, Steven Malusa, told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan. “I didn’t even want to tell the kids. I was too embarrassed to tell the kids.”

“We’re getting punished because the Board of Directors values paperwork over students,” Eidan Jacob, 17, told Hall. “I think the Mother Nature just gave them an excuse.”

“I think for most of us, we’ve been doing this for so many years that it’s become an integral part of our life,” added Stephanie Chen, 17. “To have this opportunity just taken away, it was very devastating to most of us.”

“We don’t think that this kind of punishment and this kind of enforcement of the rules is fair, nor is it representative of what Science Olympiad stands for,” said Alan Wei, 17.

Ward Melville’s principal, Alan Baum, agreed.

“It’s a shame and  it’s an embarrassment to the state organization to punish kids for the actions or inactions of adults,” he told McLogan.

Harold Miller, director of the New York State Science Olympiad, said that, with 51 teams competing, rules must be enforced.

“We are always disappointed when a fine school does not submit its materials in a timely manner,” he said.

The competition will be held Friday and Saturday at Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale.

The students have started an online petition in hopes of being reinstated. They have also sent a group letter to the state Olympiad director hoping to force a policy change to prevent other teams from facing similar problems in the future.

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