If the Maine Principals’ Association follows suggested guidelines for physical education classes provided recently by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an interscholastic fall sports season likely will not happen.
Among the recommendations shared with Maine high school administrators, physical education classes should not include activities with close physical contact.
The organizations established guidelines that would require 14 feet between students participating in outdoor physical education classes if they are not wearing masks and set six feet as the standard if masks are being worn.
It further mandates that masks are required for all indoor activities but students must remain six feet apart.
With the exception of golf, all other fall sports in Maine involve student athletes who are in close proximity to each other. Those include football, soccer, cross country, field hockey and volleyball, the latter of which is an indoor sport.
“How can you apply [the physical education guidelines] to interscholastic activities after school?” Brewer High School athletic director Dave Utterback posed on Monday. “They would have to be treated separately or there would have to be an amendment [to allow a fall sports season].”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MPA had already pushed the planned start of the Maine high school fall sports season back two weeks. The first day for tryouts and practices is Sept. 8 across most of Maine, while for Aroostook County schools, some of which normally begin preseason practice and countable games earlier than the rest of the state to accommodate the fall potato harvest break, could begin practicing as early as Monday.
The number of regular-season games has already been reduced.
Two student athletes at Foxcroft Academy who attended voluntary summer workouts at the school were diagnosed with the coronavirus last week.
Lee Academy athletic director Randy Harris agreed that the new guidelines would cripple fall sports.
“I can’t imagine them being played unless there is an exemption,” Harris said. “It wouldn’t be possible.”
The MPA, under the guidance of the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Center for Disease Control, has continually updated guidelines pertaining to summer community sports and workout protocols leading up to the fall sports season.
However, there have not yet been any recommendations made for physical education classes.
“We are currently working with the Governor’s office, the [Department of Health and Human Services], the CDC and the [Department of Education] to determine recommendations around masking and physical distancing and the difference between the community sports guidelines and DOE guidelines as they pertain to physical education,” said Mike Burnham, executive director of the MPA interscholastic division.
Utterback and Harris expect the MPA later this week to make a decision on whether there will be a fall sports season.