BAR HARBOR — After a brief resumption, sports at Mount Desert Island are now on hold once again.
The new calendar year has begun with a delay to MDI’s winter sports season following AOS 91’s decision to move to remote learning for a period of two weeks. Athletic events and other extracurricular events at the school will now be sidelined until at least Jan. 18.
“After consultations and some conversations with the local hospital, we felt it was the right move,” MDI Athletic Director Bunky Dow said. “We’ve seen more cases in our area, and if you look at what experts are saying about the virus with travel and the holiday, we could be in for a rough two weeks.”
Prior to the pause, athletes on MDI’s basketball and swim teams had been participating in skills and conditioning workouts since Dec. 14. The indoor track and wrestling teams had been slated to begin Monday following the conclusion of winter break.
Monday which was also the first day teams were allowed to hold more formal team activities and intra-squad scrimmages under Maine Principals’ Association and state guidelines. That means MDI coaches and athletes will be tasked with making up for lost time when the action resumes.
“The conditioning and skills stuff is very important, but the kids are anxious to get out and do more, and it’s hard when they can’t do that,” Dow said. “We’re hoping that, if everything goes well over the next two weeks, we can start up again with tryouts at the beginning of that week.”
Even if athletics restart Jan. 18, though, there will be some schedule shuffling necessary. MDI had been set to begin winter competitions the following day, Jan. 19, with games against Brewer, games that must now be moved or canceled altogether.
“Obviously, we’re not going to be playing those games that day,” Dow said. “We have games against Sumner that we might also have to move. Fortunately, if it’s a situation where we have to move those games or cut our schedule from 12 games to 10, we have the luxury of doing that.”
Even if MDI is cleared to resume sports in less than two weeks’ time, schools are only permitted to participate in athletics if they maintain “green” designations in the Maine Department of Education’s color-code guidelines. The county has remained green to date, though it was placed under close monitoring in late November.
MDI could also be affected if nearby counties enter yellow or red statuses. Neighboring Waldo County’s yellow stint in the fall forced MDI to cancel a girls’ soccer game against Searsport, and the current situation makes similar cancellations or postponements this winter a strong possibility.
“It would not surprise me next week if we see a bunch of counties shut down,” said Dow, who expressed worry over Penobscot County’s inclusion on the DOE watch list. “You have to be thinking about your school, but if schools around you can’t play, that also impacts you.”
AOS 91 first announced the transition to remote learning Saturday following the aforementioned discussions between administration and the MDI Hospital. In a letter, Superintendent Marc Gousse called the measures “necessary to support the health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and communities.”
“During this period of remote instruction, it is very important everyone remain vigilant, avoid gathering in groups, limit travel, monitor for symptoms, wear masks, practice good hygiene and maintain physical distancing,” Gousse wrote. “Thank you for your continued support and commitment to doing the right things to keep everyone healthy and safe.”
Dow said MDI coaches will be reaching out to athletes via Zoom over the next two weeks. MDI would then hold tryouts should athletics resume.
“It’s another setback, but if we’re allowed to start on the 18th, we’re going to do everything we can to give the kids a season,” Dow said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride, and I have to give credit to the kids and coaches for being flexible and being patient.”