ella kellogg soccer 2019

Ella Kellogg, left, of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, competes for the ball against Jenna Boucher of Leavitt Area High School in Turner during a 2019 soccer match. Kellogg is a team captain for the restricted 2020 fall season. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

PARIS — The Oxford Hills School District board of directors voted 20-1 Monday evening to approve a fall sports plan, after hearing from parents, students and coaches, and Athletic Director Kevin Ryan.

Football teams will play a reduced roster of seven on seven. Field hockey, girls’ and boys’ soccer games, golf and cross country competitions will also be allowed.

SAD 17 athletes will only play teams from nearby communities such as Poland and Fryeburg Academy.

At the start of the meeting held via Zoom videoconferencing, several directors were opposed to a fall sports program. However, the rigorous work Ryan and coaches put into planning how to monitor, manage and execute safety procedures that, in Ryan’s words, exceeded Maine Department of Health and Maine Principals’ Association guidelines, swayed their positions.

“At the start of this meeting, I meant to vote against this,” Lewis Williams of Hebron said. “But I believe the kids have done what they’ve been told and they will work to maintain it. I am concerned about the others they will interact with.”

Kristin Roy of Otisfield also changed her mind, although she stressed she was deeply concerned that exposure to athletes, referees and coaches from other communities meant greater exposure to residents in the eight-town district.

“I have reluctantly changed my mind,” she said. “Many of our students are being raised by their grandparents who are vulnerable. The only stable family those students have are at risk.”

Dr. Kate Herlihy, a pediatrician with Western Maine Health who has consulted and advised SAD 17 administrators throughout the pandemic, spoke in support of the plan she helped develop.

“There has been a tremendous amount of work done for this plan,” Herlihy told directors. “The superintendent, athletic trainers, school nurses and coaches have all come together and put safety at the very top. Oxford Hills has done extremely well throughout COVID-19. It is important for students to be able to play.”

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people under mandates from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Ryan estimated that after counting athletes, team staff and referees, about 30 spectators would be allowed on the sidelines.

That number spurred some debate because many districts in Maine have already stated that spectators would not be allowed.

Bob Jewell of Paris wanted to amend the proposal to not allow spectators. He also said students competing for their school should not be allowed to play on travel team leagues that increase their exposure in less secure playing environments.

“How do you decide who can come?” he asked. “It will be a hard decision on who is allowed tickets.”

Jewell’s amendments were voted down, 16-5.

Barry Patrie of Waterford first spoke in favor of the two changes but voted against them after hearing from Ryan.

“We need to trust our administrators and athletics department,” Patrie said. “We are not here to micromanage them.”

Colin Edwards, a senior offensive lineman on the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School football team, will not be able to play his final season on a reduced roster but spoke on behalf of the team.

“As an offensive lineman, my position will not be on the field,” Edwards said. “But 60% of our guys can play on a seven-on-seven team. I want them to be able to play.”

Ella Kellogg, a senior and captain of the girls’ soccer team, spoke about the importance of the sport to her.

“I feel empty thinking I won’t be able to play soccer,” she told directors as she stopped to fight tears. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

After a moment she started over, her tone changing from sadness to steely determination.

“It is so important,” she implored. “We will do anything to play. Please let us play.”

Senior cross-country teammates Kaylynn Johnson of Otisfield and Jade Martel-Bixby of West Paris talked about the importance of competition to all athletes and its part in helping them test their abilities, develop work ethics, escape from other pressures and set goals.

“Our team is our family,” they said jointly.

The vote to proceed with fall sports was followed by applause as meeting attendees expressed their gratitude and relief.

Voting for fall sports, besides Williams, Roy, Jewell and Patrie, were Natalie Andrew and William Rolfe, both of West Paris, Scott Buffington, Sarah Otterson and Troy Ripley, all of Paris, Jared Cash, Curtis Cole, Stephen Cummings and Christopher Miller, all of Norway, Amanda Fearon of Hebron, Judy Green of Waterford, David Dunn, Ron Kugell and Gary Smith, all of Oxford, Albert Lisowski of Harrison, and Chairwoman Diana Olsen of Otisfield.

Voting against was Stacia Cordwell of Oxford.

Kathy Laplante of Harrison has resigned from the board.


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