The Maine Principal's Association Interscholastic Management Committee met on Thursday to make a final decision on the fall sports season.
The meeting started with executive director Mike Burnham stating that they received correspondence from the Maine School Board Association and the Superintendent's Organization stating their concerns about sports this fall.
It was clarified later in the meeting that the Superintendent's Organization had some concerns over recent National High School Federation guidelines and that the School Board Association's concerns came from the MDOE physical education guidelines on the 14 feet of social distancing recommendation which was later discovered not to apply to high school athletics.
The MPA went into executive session for a little over an hour, and when they returned they voted unanimously to follow the Sports Medicine Committee's guidelines and allow fall sports to proceed.
The MPA's positive recommendation to proceed with fall sports means it will now be up to the Governor's office to review the guidelines for consideration. It is expected that the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Center for Disease Control would be involved in the review of the MPA guidelines.
DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in the Maine CDC press conference today said she hadn't had time to review the guidelines as her department didn't receive all of them until around noon time.
Commissioner Lambrew reminded everyone that school athletics are not exempt from the underlying state requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.
Once the state has reviewed and signed off the decision will then go to the local school districts to determine if they will sponsor competitive athletics at their schools this fall. Camden Hills and Deer-Isle Stonington have already opted out prior to the MPA announcement.
At the last meeting MPA IMC meeting on July 17th, the committee postponed their decision until this week due to needing additional clarification from the state on the differences between the return to school safety guidelines from the Maine Department of Education and the Community Sports return to play guidelines established by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. They received the clarification a day later that they could follow the Community Sports return to play guidelines.
On Wednesday the Sports Medicine Committee gave the green light to all sports as long as they followed the guidelines they outlined. Cross-country was deemed low risk with the following adaptions expected to be made.
- Alterations to widened the narrowest points on course to six feet.
- At the starting line athlete will wear disposable face coverings and drop them before the race starts
- On the starting line, athletes should be six feet apart
- Staggered, waves or interval starts are recommended
- As well as separate finishing corrals
- Meets will fall under the auspices of 'mass gatherings' guidelines, so large teams might need to limit participants.
- Possibility of using cloth masks and athletes can hold for the duration of the race
The fall sports season officially kicks off on September 8th. It was mentioned that individual school districts may delay the start further if they so decide.