Officials from the Maine Principals’ Association will have their first meeting with state officials Friday to begin discussions about the high school winter season.

MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham said they will meet with representatives from the office of Gov. Janet Mills, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine School Superintendents Association, the Maine School Board Association and the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association on Friday.

The conversation will likely focus on when it will be safe to return to play in the winter during the coronavirus pandemic. Burnham said all sports will follow the “return to play” guidelines that were established between the MPA and state officials in the fall.

The start of the fall season was twice delayed, finally opening on Sept. 14 with preseason practices. Volleyball, the only indoor fall sport, and tackle football were prohibited.

Jeanne Lambrew, the commissioner of DHHS, acknowledged during Thursday’s CDC media briefing that the process of getting back to sports this fall was flawed.

“We hope to work in tandem going out with the guidance on winter sports, recognizing that it was not an ideal situation going over the summer, that we didn’t quite have everything synced up form the start,” Lambrew said, “but we got there from the end, so we’re hoping the process improves.”

Currently, the state’s community sports guidelines do not allow for indoor games between teams in moderate and high risk activities such as basketball, hockey, swimming, competitive cheering, wrestling and running events where physical distance cannot be maintained (such as track). Those are all sports sponsored by the MPA during the winter.

The MPA’s individual winter sports committees have already been meeting to come up with COVID-19 safety protocols, similar to those drawn up by fall sports committees. The MPA has already delayed the state of the girls’ hockey season, traditionally the first winter sport in Maine to practice and play games, to Nov. 16.

Lambrew said the coronavirus pandemic requires continued “sacrifice and vigilant efforts,” when she made closing remarks about athletics at Thursday’s media briefing.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has required Maine people to rise to the occasion unlike any other in our lifetimes. Fighting the virus demands sacrifice and vigilant efforts by each and every one of us to learn and practice in new ways, to protect not only ourselves but our loved ones and our communities.

“We appreciate the challenge of sports and theater and music and singing and all of those types of activities that have not occurred the same way under the pandemic due to these precautions, but we are hopeful that as we continue this vigilance that we can get to a day where there might be the treatments, and the vaccines or the practices that will allow us to re-engage.”

Staff writer Steve Craig contributed to this story.


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