JAY — Regional School Unit 73 directors voted unanimously Thursday to delay a decision on fall sports while allowing Phase 4 programming to continue.

The specially called meeting gave athletes, parents, coaches and directors time to express their opinions and concerns about holding fall sports.

On Aug. 27, the Maine Principals Association’s Interscholastic Management Committee approved the sports medicine recommendation to play all fall sports.

On Tuesday, the state urged further delay of all fall sports.

On Wednesday, MPA pushed the start of fall sports back a week.

“The safety and health of our students and staff is paramount,” Spruce Mountain High School Athletic Director Marc Keller said at the start of the meeting.

The MPA’s guidelines have changed since first presented in early July, he said. During Phase 1 virtual programs for each sport were held, he added.

Phase 2’s in person practices began July 20 with students checking in, doing daily screening and coaches taking attendance at their own stations, Keller said.

Phase 3, beginning about Aug. 3, saw extended practices and more sharing, according to Keller.

Face masks, social distancing and sanitizing were practiced in both phases, he noted.

For the past two weeks, Phase 4 has been the same as Phase 3 but for fall sports only, Keller said.

“Phase 1 had 63 students participate, Phase 2, 89, Phase 3, 104, and Phase 4, when we dropped basketball, had 106,” Keller said.

He noted 106 students have signed up for fall sports, but that doesn’t include everyone who participated in Phase 4.

Last year, 115 had signed up for fall sports with a few more joining later, Keller said.

“We’re almost exactly where we were last year,” he added.

Feedback requested by Keller found spectator attendance as the biggest concern. Others were transportation for students without driver’s licenses to get to practices, getting to games when there are double bus runs this year, questions about close contact, and not being able to play this season.

Guidelines from state agencies list golf and cross country as low risk, soccer and field hockey as moderate risk and football as high risk, Keller said. There are no guidelines for competition cheering, he added.

Students have been participating in youth league sports programs all summer, Keller said.

“If we say no sports, that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen,” he said. “We can’t make it 100% safe,” adding sports would be more controlled in school programs, under Spruce coaches and the district’s guidelines.

Robotics, Envirothon and other competitions could be affected, he added.

A straw poll last week found many districts in the Mountain Valley Conference have not made decisions on fall sports, Keller said.

“You can either let them play sports or let them play in the streets,” one parent said.

It’s important to offer something, Spruce Mountain Middle School Athletic Director Craig Collins said.

A soccer player said he has been playing since he was 6.

“It’s a sport I cherish,” he said. “It’s been a big part of my family. If it gets canceled, it would be truly heartbreaking to me and my team members.”

Not knowing if there would be a season was really hard said one girl who plays soccer.

“Sports help me so much, make me feel better. We have a connection I can’t really explain,” she said.

Sports play a big role in students’ mental health, one parent said.

“There’s also the academic part,” the mother said. “These kids are held accountable, it’s a reason for coming to school. If sports don’t go through, grades will go down. Student athletes are some of the top students in our school.”

“The whole reason we’re having this discussion is to find a way to unite the community without causing a flare-up of the virus,” Director Phoebe Pike said. “The virus is a big deal. We wouldn’t have gone to remote learning if it wasn’t.”

Think about putting students in other schools, those who don’t play sports, at risk, Director Ann Schwab said.

“There’s not enough information to make an adequate decision,” Pike said.”This whole situation keeps changing from day to day.”


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