Maine Principals Association grapples with two key issues in deciding whether to keep fall sports season

Latest on the High School Sports season for 2020/2021
Latest on the High School Sports season for 2020/2021(WSAW)
Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 1:12 PM EDT
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The Maine Principals Association is waiting to make a decision on the fate of high school sports this fall.

At this morning’s Interscholastic Management Committee meeting, MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham said the MPA has asked the governor’s office, the Maine CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services for clarification on the guidelines set for community sports in the governor’s ‘Restarting the Economy’ phase two.

The ‘community sports’ guidelines differ from the guidelines set by the department of education. In recent guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, physical education classes would not allow for close physical contact and require a spacing of 14-feet between students during outdoor activities. If those guidelines were accepted by Maine schools, Burnham said they could not offer most of the fall sports.

Burnham said there are two major concerns that the MPA is facing in a return to sports. The first is the emotional well-being of athletes who could face missing a second straight cancellation of a sports season. This after the 2020 spring sports season was cancelled. The second issue is the two sets of guidelines being used for sports. The ‘community sports’ guidelines and the school-based guidelines.

Burnham said the MPA sent a letter expressing these two concerns to the governor’s office, the commissioner of the D.H.H.S., the Maine CDC, the commissioner of the department of education. Yesterday, the MPA met with those stakeholders.

‘Everyone was in agreement the mental health piece is a huge concern,’ said Burnham. The second part of the conversation centered around the club and travel teams that have been operating all summer long and their guidelines versus the school-based guidelines. The MPA will wait to hear back from those parties to help inform their decision on the fate of fall sports.

‘We felt that if these guidelines were looked at, and we could make some modifications to the guidelines similar to maybe what the community sports that we could maybe very well work with all our stakeholders groups and offer these activities safely,’ Burnham said.

Burnham said that in the end each district will have the power to approve or deny it’s district’s involvement in interscholastic athletics. He was unsure what the timetable would be for a response from the state agencies.

Statewide ‘for pay’ clubs have run basketball, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse programs that have involved game play this summer. Burnham said he did not know of any data that showed any community transmission of COVID-19 during those events. Burnham said that participation in extra-curricular activities is a choice each family will need to make.

Following the discussion about the fall sports season, the IMC discussed questions they have received from parents who are wondering if there will be amendments to the rules that give just 8 semesters of eligibility to athletes. There were questions about adding eligibility if a student misses another sports season. The IMC said they would have to work with the eligibility committee on this issue.

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