Superintendents in Cumberland and York counties have voted to delay any in-person athletic activities until Aug. 24, as schools continue to assess their reopening plans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, the superintendents in those counties voted to delay any workouts involving high school coaches and athletes until Aug. 3. York County superintendents voted last Friday on extending the delay to Aug. 24. Cumberland County superintendents approved it on Wednesday.

Coaches in those counties can continue to provide student-athletes with workout plans or drills and to meet virtually.

Coaches and athletes in many other counties are already taking part in conditioning sessions as established by the Maine Principals’ Association’s summer guidelines. Phase 1 of those guidelines started on July 6, with an emphasis on safety and conditioning. No full team practices can be held until Sept. 8, and fall contests would start no sooner than Sept. 18.

School officials in southern Maine say the decision to again delay the start of in-person workouts was made for a couple of reasons: to see where each school system fits within the state’s color-coded system, and to prevent a possible outbreak that could jeopardize the reopening of schools.

The state will release its first color-coded chart of counties on Friday. Counties characterized as red have a high risk of COVID-19 spread and should not have in-person classroom instruction; counties characterized as yellow have an elevated risk and should adopt a hybrid form of instruction; counties characterized as green have a lower risk of spread and can have in-person classroom instruction.

“Between then (Aug. 24) and now, we’ll have at least two color checkpoints, and that will give us an opportunity to assess what the local situation is in each community,” said John Suttie, the RSU 23 superintendent and Old Orchard Beach High School principal. “Our other concern if that if we start too early, it could create a situation … that could lead to an early outbreak and would jeopardize the start of school on Sept. 8.”

While Maine has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 infections in the nation, Cumberland and York counties have been the hardest hit in the state. Cumberland County has had the highest number of cases in the state (2,029) while York County has the second-most (633).

“This is a reasonable approach,” said Andrew Dolloff, the Yarmouth schools superintendent. “We need to be sure we can keep kids safe, and I’m encouraged by the fact that schools in other parts of the state have been able to provide activities in a healthy way. We are working hard to balance a need for normalcy, activity and social interaction for students with the risk of exposure to the illness. We’ll keep working with public health officials to make decisions in the best interests of kids.”

Thornton Academy Athletic Director Gary Stevens said he realizes the coaches and athletes at his school are disappointed by the decision but that it was “a prudent one.

“We’re trying to focus on making sure all the planning (for a return to school) is done correctly,” he said. “And we want to limit the risk of a student or staff member being exposed to this virus.”


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