The Waterville girls soccer team jogs as coach Mark Serdjenian, center, directs the team during the first day of organized workouts for fall sports in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Maine Central Institute athletic director Jim Leonard speaks for a lot of ADs when he talks about trying to plan for a fall season while adjusting for parameters set to counter the COVID-19 crisis.

“I don’t care about championships. I don’t care about in-conference or out-of-conference. I care about playing games,” Leonard said. “Let’s get the kids doing something. It’s not just sports. It’s going to be plays. It’s going to be concerts. It’s going to be everything that makes our school a community.”

Athletic directors from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference — which includes area schools Edward Little, Leavitt, Lewiston, Mt. Blue and Oxford Hills — discussed how to schedule for the fall season, which for now is set to begin with practices on Sept. 8 and games Sept. 18.

While nothing definitive came out of Tuesday’s meeting, it was clear that working with other conferences to develop regional schedules is the clear favorite course of action moving forward.

“We need to talk to other conferences and figure out how many countable games we’ll have. It’s going to be a process,” Leonard said.

Gardiner athletic director Nate Stubbert said that going forward with regional scheduling is all but a given at this point.

“(Superintendents) would be more supportive of fall sports if we had some sort of regionalized scheduling,” he said. “I do believe that if we do have sports this fall, it will be with regionalized schedules. I just don’t see how it can happen any other way.”

Added Lincoln Academy athletic director and KVAC president KJ Anastasio: “Quite frankly, we’re waiting for guidance from the MPA, but we want to be ahead of it.”

“It would makes sense for Maranacook to play a Mountain Valley Conference team near them instead of driving an hour to Newport to play Nokomis,” Lawrence AD Dave Packard said.

Brunswick High School is the only school in Cumberland county in the KVAC. The school still hopes to be able to begin practice on Aug. 6, but the meeting Tuesday was more of a “check-in” of sorts.

“We had a meeting, it was informal, there was no agenda, just kind of a check-in session of where schools are at, what they’re doing for academics this summer, and what the plan might be for the fall,” Brunswick AD Jeff Ramich said. “Nothing was decided, no decisions were made, kind of just checked-in. If we are allowed to do some sort of fall sports, we want to do a regional schedule that would break down conference walls. Brunswick being able to play Freeport, Yarmouth and Greely, maybe even EL and Lisbon in some sports.”

Cross-conference games have been scheduled in the past in basketball, baseball and softball, Anastasio said, with success. Brant Remington, Maranacook athletic director, said MVC officials have already told the KVAC that they’re interested in working together on a schedule.

“It was good to hear (Tuesday) that … the Mountain Valley Conference is a lot more open to the idea, given the situation we’re in,” said Remington, whose school is less than 15 miles from a trio of MVC schools in Winthrop, Monmouth and Hall-Dale. “There’s a good chance that we could pick up some of the schools around our size in our area, which would be a big, huge difference, I think. It would give us some more possibilities.”

There are other obstacles to overcome besides scheduling. For example, if students are required to wear masks all day in the classroom, will masks be required in practices and games?

“At 2:45, we’re going to tell the athletes to go ahead and take the masks off and go swap spit and sweat and blood with other kids?” Leonard said.

Mike Hathaway, Leavitt High’s football coach, runs though a play with players including Thornton Academy’s Costa GIkas, third from left, and Scarborough’s Sam Rumelhart during Maine Elite Passing Camp at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald Buy this Photo

Schools need to coordinate their COVID-19 response teams to ensure if an athlete is diagnosed with the disease, opponents are notified, and, if necessary, quarantined as well, Leonard said. Transportation also will be a hurdle.

“If you can only put 13 kids on a yellow bus, that impacts travel,” Leonard said.

Ramich added that “everything is on the table,” as far as night and weekend games go.

“Especially because of the transportation issue that we are going to have and parents are going to have to bring some of their kids to the games,” Ramich said.

Those logistical issues are why several ADs in the meeting had concerns regarding their school’s ability to participate in the fall season.

“We had that discussion about who was ready to go. There are some schools that are saying, ‘No, we’re not playing,'” Stubbert said. “But the majority of schools are prepared to have a fall sports season, given that the MPA gives us the green light.”

Remington said schools won’t be able to know for sure what they’re doing until the Department of Education releases the color codes for the counties on Friday, but that they’re feeling compelled to adopt a hybrid model of teaching regardless.

“Based on the guidelines right now of having to keep 3 feet apart and wear a mask, (they feel) that they don’t have a choice other than to be hybrid because of the space they have in the building,” he said.

Remington said he hopes schools will continue to look for ways to field teams, even if they’re pursuing that hybrid of in-person and virtual learning.

“We should give it a go as best we can,” he said. “… People, overall, just can’t afford to not have this as part of their education. As many people that can get away with it and do it, I think they’re going to be allowed to do it.”

Times Record staff writer Adam Robinson contributed to this story.

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