JAY — Regional School Unit 73 directors voted 7-5 Thursday night not to allow winter sports.

Spruce Mountain High School Athletic Director Marc Keller said based on the Maine Principals’ Association guidelines, the district could effectively and safely have student athletes participate.

“MPA did a survey on fall sports,” Keller said. “Seventy-three percent of schools participating reported back. Out of more than 13,000 participants, there were only 10 positive COVID-19 cases. Those are extremely low numbers.”

Superintendent Scott Albert said he was not in favor of allowing fall sports because of the many unknowns at the beginning of the school year and that the MPA hadn’t stepped up to pass the straight-face test.

Golf and cross country were the only fall sports the district approved for interscholastic competition.

“Looking at the guidelines, I think we can keep our students safe,” Albert said. “There is a good chance the season could be very short.”

The district would be under Franklin County as far as the state’s risk assessment for the virus, not Androscoggin, if winter sports are approved, he said.

Two RSU 73 schools are in Franklin County and Androscoggin’s yellow designation for moderate risk is based on Lewiston/Auburn, not Livermore/Livermore Falls, he added.

“I support this,” Director Andrew Sylvester said. “I’m tired of seeing kids stay home. I don’t think we should try to restrict you. Kids and parents need a chance to participate.”

Director Lynn Ouellette asked for an explanation on how basketball could be played safely with social distancing.

“When you talk about close contact, it’s 15 minutes of contact to be considered close contact,” Keller said. “Everyone will be required to wear masks throughout the entire contest.”

Changes this year include a coin toss rather than the jump ball to start the game and athletes must be 3 feet apart and adults 6 feet apart for the majority of the time.

Keller also was asked to provide the guidelines for those in the community that might not have seen them.

There will be no spectators at any events, with a maximum 50 people at indoor events and 100 at outdoor events, he said.

There will be no sideline cheering. Instead teams will record their performance for the virtual state competition, Keller said. There will be no pyramids or vocalization during the competition, he added.

For Alpine skiing there is a lot less chance for close contact, but there may be a bit with Nordic skiing, Keller noted.

Minor rule changes in ice hockey have been implemented so there will be less close contact, and wrestling won’t take place until the end of February because it is in the same category as football, he said.

“If the district is totally remote, students would not be playing sports,” Albert said.

“All bulletins are always posted to the public and have been on social media,” community member Cherie Parker said. “The MPA just came out with that information.”

“Having coached cross country this fall, the kids really enjoyed it,” Spruce Mountain Middle School teacher Rob Taylor said. “The kids responded to what we asked in amazing fashion.”

“These kids want to play,” Keller said. “Yes, we’re concerned, don’t want our student athletes to come down with or pass on COVID. For the most part, they’re being forced to live a life completely abnormal to them.”

One of the most important pieces is the mental state of our student athletes, Keller said.

Director Patrick Mulligan was in support of winter sports.

“Let the kids see that they can do more,” he said.

Directors voting in favor of winter sports were Lenia Coates, Elaine Fitzpatrick, Mulligan, Andrew Sylvester and Robert Staples. Voting against were Doug DiPasquale, student representative Taylor Guay, Steven Langlin, Michael Morrell, Lynn Ouellette, Joel Pike and Phoebe Pike. Ann Schwab recused herself as her son is an athlete and Sara Hughes was absent.

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