Editorial: Moving the goal post 



It is back to school (in one form or another) for many Hancock County kids this week and the stakes are high for studentsstaff and the nation as they all undertake the massive social and epidemiological experiment that is resuming public education amid a pandemic. It was just a few short weeks ago that local school boards approved their fall plans, and many details are still being worked out. Just about everything has changed – and quickly – and there are no perfect solutions.  

It can be easy to channel our frustrations at the closest available authority figure, but teachers and school staff do not deserve it. They have logged countless hours preparing for this unusual school year and have shown up this week with smiles on their masked faces. Patience and empathy are the grease that will keep the wheels of 2020 rolling. Apply liberally. 

Many high school athletes, coaches and parents are feeling like their patience is running out when it comes to decisions on resuming fall sports. And if not patience, it may be time that runs out. Blink and it will be winter. High school sports, on hiatus since last spring, have been postponed and postponed again. There was tentative cause for celebration when the Maine Principals’ Association two weeks ago approved a fall season and COVID-19 guidelines, but state agencies quickly voiced concerns. As of last week, the plan was to push the first official team practices to Monday, Sept. 14, with the first countable games on Sept. 25. We will see if even that is realistic.  

Unsurprisingly, some school districts, including Regional School Unit 24, have thrown in the towel, citing the health risks, shifting guidelines and the all-consuming task of educating students in such a challenging environment.  

No one wants to cancel sports. Even Governor Mills, who has been unafraid to make hugely unpopular decisions in the name of public health, stated last week: “I want to see fall sports come back this year in a way that protects the health of students on the field, in the locker room and in the classroom, while safeguarding members of the larger community.” Is there such a way when it comes to close-contact sports? Will it be any fun? 

Kids need to move, and they need each other. Humans are social creatures, and our young particularly so. Kids need room to fail and to succeed, to push themselves, take risks and test their limits. They need to learn to work as a team – a real life social networkToday’s kids are less likely to build these skills roaming the neighborhood or woods with a pack of friends. They are more anxious, less active and log too many hours of screen time. For many, sports are the perfect blend of structure and fun. Putting them on ice for so long – with the starting line constantly moving – has been painful. 

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is vital to our kids’ health. So too is protecting their physical and emotional wellbeing. We hope the MPA can successfully adjust its recommendations to align with state guidelines and that at least some sports can be offered this fall. But if school-sponsored teams are nofeasible, club sports and skills workshops could help fill the void if operated safely. And there has never been a better time for families to take a hike together or throw a ball around in the yard. Kids need to play.   

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