Student athletes in Maine School Administrative District 49 will be able to take the field this fall after the school board voted to authorize modified seasons at a meeting Thursday night.

In an 11-1 vote, the board approved participation in athletics, with a series of strict health and safety guidelines recommended by the state and the Maine Principals’ Association.

The guidelines include:

•  A capacity of 100 people for games which includes athletes, coaches and officials.

• All coaches, staff, officials and fans must wear face coverings.

• Social distancing must be maintained during practices and games, which includes prohibiting hugging, high fives, shaking hands or fist bumps. 


• Athletes, staff, coaches and officials should complete a personal health screening daily before coming to practices or games.

• Any individual who has symptoms or is sick must stay home.

Additionally, the district, which serves the towns of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield, will only offer football in a 7-on-7 skills and development format.

“The kids really need this,” District Athletic Director David Packard said. “We’re feeling good and excited to just get going.”

Alissa Roy, right, passes a group of protesters Thursday as she enters Lawrence Junior High School for a board meeting in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Before the meeting, roughly 50 parents and students gathered in the parking lot of Lawrence Junior High School with signs.

Trina Nickerson, whose two children attend and play sports at Lawrence High School, said the group congregated so that the board members could “see the faces of the kids they make a decision about.”


“It would be horrible for them to miss out,” Nickerson said.

Before the vote, the board heard from Chris Sementelli, program manager of sports medicine at MaineGeneral Hospital; Dr. Robert Stevens, a primary care provider at MaineGeneral and sports medicine physician; and David Packard, the director of athletics for MSAD 49. 

In their presentations to the board, Sementelli, Stevens and Packard agreed that sports could operate safely under the guidelines.

“This is not a zero risk situation,” Stevens said. “There is no way to do this without some risk. … Even if we take away sports, it’s not a zero risk situation. … My personal opinion, I think this can be done safely with the risk relatively low.”

Sementelli presented an emergency plan that staff at MaineGeneral created with the district’s athletic staff that identified measures the district could take to mitigate the spread of the virus.

These measures include assigning risk assessments for individual sports; providing education about potential nonstudent, at-risk groups, such as coaches, family members of athletes and staff; and creating a COVID-19 response force comprising staff in the district who could handle “anything related to COVID.” 


The board also heard from community members such as Alissa Roy.

Roy urged the board to authorize sports and presented points from a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which she printed and handed out to each board member.

Roy said that the board should allow sports because they provide psychological and physical benefits, the sports would be held outside and because the counties that the district serves have low cases of COVID-19.

“I don’t know how you guys are voting; please think about (it),” Roy said. “And take this information objectively. I hope you guys can vote to approve fall sports.” 

The board had little discussion before approving fall sports.

“I applaud all of you,” board member Stewart Kinley said after the vote. “I’ve already considered sports a part of the educational process; it’s not an extra or an add on.” 


Upon hearing the news, students were heard cheering in the parking lot. Among them was Victoria Dunphy, a senior field hockey player who is confident that athletes can follow the guidelines set forth for the fall.

“We can definitely do this. This is so great for us,” Dunphy said. “I don’t think our school would be able to manage very long without sports so I’m feeling good.”

Kathie Dunphy, Victoria’s mom, said she’s overjoyed that the students are able to play sports this fall.

“I’m very happy. This is very emotional for me,” Kathie Dunphy said. “I’m in health care, and I know the mental health aspect of sports. And with kids in sports, it keeps them in the right direction. This is very important.”

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