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State has new hurdles for MPA if games are to be played this fall

On Tuesday, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services sent a letter to the Maine Principal's Association asking to modify its return to sports plans

BANGOR, Maine — For some school districts in Maine, Tuesday was the first day back in the classroom since March. As kids get back to class, student-athletes are still wondering if, and when, they can play.

Last week, the Maine Principals' Association (MPA) approved guidelines for all fall sports to be played this season—even football. Each sport had subsequent guidelines and recommendations but the return of sports seemed like a reality.

The MPA ended that meeting and said it would send those guidelines to state agencies for review.

On Tuesday, the Departments of Education (DOE) and Health and Human Services (DHHS) responded to those guidelines with a letter to Executive Director of the MPA Mike Burnham.

"However, the MPA guidance does not include any modifications to the types of play for sports based on risk," the letter, signed by DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and DOE Commissioner Pender Makin, says.

RELATED: Maine Principal's Association approves fall sports plan

"Under the MPA Guidance, student-athletes in even the highest risk sports can compete as they did pre COVID, including within-team competition, between local teams, between teams statewide regardless of the color classification of counties in the School Health Advisory System, and between teams from out of state including states that are not exempt from Maine’s requirement for quarantine or testing."

Another state agency, the Department of Economic and Community Development, updated its Community Sports guidelines Tuesday.

The MPA decided to follow the DECD's recommendations when making its own decisions last week.

Those new updates include:

  • Golf and Cross-Country can be played between schools across the state, as both are still low-risk sports.
  • Moderate-risk sports such as field-hockey and soccer can only be played within regional schedules, making statewide postseason play impossible for this year.
  • The big change, football, and volleyball can only be played in inter-squad scrimmage situations.

Football is a high-risk sport under these 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. 

The letter written to the MPA also states it waited to update the Community Sport guidelines after the MPA made its own guidelines.

Read the letter here:

"However, our public health experts do not recommend adopting the MPA Guidance given the differences previously described," the letter reads.

As for what's next—the State says, "[...] we urge you to consider extending your delayed start date for fall sports as many other interscholastic sports bodies in other states have done to allow for sufficient time to resolve the concerns expressed in this letter and to allow for appropriate time for implementation."

"This would also have the beneficial effect of allowing schools the opportunity to get their academic programs underway, which many school administrators, teachers and communities will likely appreciate."

Fall sports were set to begin practice on Sept. 8, one week from Tuesday with games being played starting on Sept. 18.

The MPA did not immediately respond to NEWS CENTER Maine's request for comment.