AUGUSTA, Maine — On Wednesday, the Maine Principals' Association (MPA) announced it will delay the start of the fall high school sports season one week to Sept. 14.
The announcement comes one day after the Maine Departments of Education and Health and Human Services sent the MPA a letter expressing concerns with its return to play guidelines.
Last Thursday, the MPA approved its Sports Medicine Committee's recommendations for all fall sports to be played this year, but the plan still needed State approval.
“The Maine Principals’ Association agrees with the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education that it would be best to extend the delay of fall sports by one additional week to allow schools to get their academic programs underway as we further adjust our guidance,” Mike Burnham, MPA executive director, said in a statement.
Burnham says in the coming days, the MPA "will work closely and collaboratively with the Administration" to modify their guidance for fall sports and come up with a solution "that will honor the State’s safety protocols and protect the health and safety of student athletes along with their communities."
"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," Burnham said.
Gov. Janet Mills said, "I am a firm believer in the value of school sports which support the physical, social, and mental health of young people."
"I want to see fall sports come back this year in a way that protects the health of students on the field, in the locker room and in the classroom, while safeguarding members of the larger community," Mills added. "I am asking my Commissioners to work as a team with the MPA, the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association to address concerns about the guidance as quickly as possible with the most important goal in mind: protecting the health and safety of Maine students, their extended families, their teachers and fellow students and all members of our broader Maine community.”
In its letter to the MPA about its plan on Tuesday, the State said the MPA's guidance did not include modifications to the types of play based on risk.
Football is a high-risk sport under the guidelines which is why it cannot be played between schools. Volleyball is a moderate-risk sport but is the only fall sport played indoors hence the new guidelines.
Read the letter here:
Ultimately, it was the State's recommendation that the fall sports season be delayed so the MPA could resolve the concerns they expressed in their letter.
Meanwhile, the RSU 24 Board of Directors voted unanimously to suspend interscholastic athletics for its students for the fall sports season altogether, citing the "fluidity of guidance" and risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
Fall sports were set to begin practice on Sept. 8, one week from Tuesday with games being played starting on Sept. 18.
This story will be updated.