In this October 30, 2019, file photo, Belfast's Hannah Banks (right) tries to get the ball from Winslow's Savannah Joler (left) during the Class B North field hockey championship game at Hampden Academy. The Maine Principals' Association and Maine Departments of Education and Health and Human Services disagree on when and how to allow high school sports to be played this fall. Credit: BDN file photo

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The Maine Principals’ Association has failed the test on fall sports.

Last week, the association’s Interscholastic Management Committee voted unanimously to allow fall sports – including football – this year.

On Tuesday, Maine’s departments of education and health and human services raised concerns with the timetable and asked the MPA to delay the start of the fall sports season. Several aspects of the MPA’s plan — such as mask wearing and spectator attendance — conflicted with state mandates, the departments said.

The push to play sports doesn’t make any sense to me – as a sports fan and the father of two high school students.

My son starts the 9th grade this year. He will only be allowed to be in class for three hours, two times a week. The rest of the time, he’ll be learning remotely. My daughter is a junior, and she’ll tell you that the junior year is the most academically important year of high school. She will be 100 percent remote-learning when school starts in two weeks.

Teachers are rightly worried about the health of their students, about the health of staff in schools and their own health and that of their families.

School systems around the state are likely to face workforce shortages, including a dearth of substitute teachers.

And as we have seen with recent events in the Katahdin area, one mistake or bad decision can lead to consequences in communities all over the state as COVID-19 spreads from person to person, town to town.

I’ll be honest. I love to watch sports, including high school football, even though neither of my kids play. When COVID-19 forced most of us into some level of isolation in March, it was news from the New England Patriots that helped to tether me and other sports fans to the before-times.

The only non-COVID news seemed to be about Tom Brady (and Gronk) and their decision to reunite and play for that team in Florida. I forget what they call it.

There was the investigation into the “videotaping” incident, the decision not to sign Cam Newton and then the decision to sign Newton for what could be the deal of a century for a former MVP quarterback and game-changing athlete.

It’s arguing about the Patriots that helps to keep me and some of my friends from college with very different political views connected. It’s a common language and common ground when other topics stoke division.

Sports matter at all levels. There are important lessons about life and being a part of a team that come from participating in high school sports. There are lessons in discipline and putting others ahead of self. There is, after all, no “i” in “team.”

I want fall sports – all sports – to return as a fan, as a father and someone who recognizes how sports can bring communities together.

But allowing close-contact sports doesn’t make any sense under the current circumstances.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills is the former head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. We worked together during the H1N1 pandemic and a number of other health crises during my time in the Baldacci administration. There’s simply no one I trust more on matters of public health.

Talking to the Portland Press Herald and again on her personal Facebook feed, which is a wealth of great information about coronavirus and COVID-19, Mills put it this way:

“If Millinocket has taught us anything, it’s that this novel virus is very serious and can spread extraordinarily quickly throughout a wedding party, a school, a community and even the state. It’s human nature to at least try to do sports, to say we’ll stop if we get an outbreak, but by then it can be too late. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle.”

Already, the super-spreader event in the Katahdin region has forced schools to change their plans and the impact has spread all over the state, seriously impacting the York County jail hundreds of miles away and a rehabilitation facility more than 100 miles away.

We all want things to return to normal. Every one of us. I want my kids back in school and playing sports.

But if the classroom isn’t safe for full-time instruction, then neither is the locker room or the playing field.

The Maine Principals’ Association has called its play, but they forgot that central lesson of sports. When it comes to fighting the spread of COVID-19, we’re all on the same team.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children.

David Farmer, Opinion columnist

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist....