BAR HARBOR — One week into September, the wait for a final decision on the 2020 fall sports season continues.
The Maine Principals’ Association elected last Wednesday to delay the start of the fall season by one additional week. The decision came a day after the high school sports governing body received a letter from state agencies recommending such a delay and disapproving of the proposal outlined at the MPA’s Aug. 27 meeting.
In the letter received last Tuesday, the state’s Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services wrote that several of the MPA’s proposed guidelines “did not comport” with state recommendations. The agencies specifically referenced the MPA’s guidelines on spacing and face coverings and the governing body’s failure to make modifications to sports in higher risk categories.
The following day, the MPA announced a one-week delay of the season in a statement with the Maine School Board Association, Maine School Superintendents Association and Governor Janet Mills’ administration. MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham said that the delay was necessary to “allow schools to get their academic programs underway as we further adjust our guidance.”
“In the coming days, we will work closely and collaboratively with the administration to modify our guidance and arrive at a solution that will honor the state’s safety protocols and protect the health and safety of student athletes along with their communities,” Burnham said. “We are grateful to the departments for their response to our request for feedback and look forward to working with them so that students may be able to play sports as quickly and as safely as possible.”
In her statement, Governor Mills advised Commissioner of Education Pender Makin and DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew to work with the MPA, Maine School Board Association and Maine School Superintendents Association to address concerns related to the guidelines. Makin and Lambrew added that the extra week would allow schools to focus on a return to education as leaders develop a new framework for fall sports.
“We appreciate the Maine Principals’ Association’s commitment to protecting the health and safety of Maine’s student athletes as well as their fellow students, school staff, and families, a commitment we share,” the commissioners said in a joint statement. “We will work closely with MPA, the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association on a path forward.”
Prior to the delay, the season had been slated to begin Tuesday with the first practices. Golf, cross-country, volleyball and soccer were eligible to hold countable games, matches and meets as early as next Friday, Sept. 18, with football eligible to begin the following Friday, Sept. 25. Those dates were announced July 20 after the MPA voted to delay its original start date of Aug. 17.
Elsewhere in New England, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced Friday morning that contact football would not be offered this fall. The following day, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League moved football and volleyball to early 2021 after Governor Gina Raimondo said the sports could not be offered as part of the fall season.
On Tuesday evening, Mount Desert Island Athletic Director Bunky Dow told WDEA’s Chris Popper that cross-country and golf had received approval from state agencies to take place. Dow said that MDI will compete in Hancock County-only competitions in those sports, though a final decision on the school’s participation will not be made by the MDIRSS Board until Sept. 10.
“We’re going to recommend to our school committee that we follow all MPA recommendations,” Dow told WDEA. “The school board is really on board with trying to offer something to the kids that’s safe and healthy.”