The Winslow School Board voted unanimously to move forward with a winter sports season after reviewing the Maine Principals’ Association’s return to sports guidelines at a special meeting Monday night.

Winslow Athletic Director Jim Bourgoin presented the guidelines to the board. He said he is confident in moving forward with the guidelines for a few reasons, including that students who aren’t allowed to play sports at the school level would find a club team. The sports that can move forward include boys and girls basketball at the junior high level, and boys and girls basketball, ice hockey, indoor track, swimming and cheering at the high school level.

“If we don’t do it, these young people are going to go somewhere else and do it, whether it be club or AAU (Amateur Athletic Union),” Bourgoin said. “We know if we do it, we’re going to follow the guidelines. … I’m really comfortable with what the guidelines are.”

Athletes are required to complete a daily personal health screening, wear masks and follow other health protocols. There will be no spectators at games this winter.

“With the 50 or less number, there’s no room anyways,” Bourgoin said. “We will have a staging area so we never have 50 people in the gym at one time.”

The boys ice hockey team and swim teams are a co-ops with Waterville. The girls ice hockey team is a co-op with Cony, Erskine Academy, Gardiner, Lawrence and Messalonskee.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services along with the Maine Center for Disease Control adopted a schedule for winter athletics. The return to play is broken up into six levels.

• Level 1: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning.

• Level 2: Team-based practice with physically distanced group activities

• Level 3: Within-team competition (e.g. intra-squad scrimmages). This level of play involves one cohort of participants.

• Level 4: Competition between teams from the same geographic area (e.g. the same county and in some cases adjacent counties). This level of play involves two cohorts of participants.

• Level 5: Competition between teams from different geographic areas within Maine.

• Level 6: Competition between teams from different states.

Barring any changes, swimming, skiing, and track and field throwing events where appropriate distancing takes place may begin immediately. Moderate-risk winter sports like basketball and ice hockey will start Level 1 on Dec. 7. Levels 2 and 3 can start Dec. 14, while Level 4 won’t begin any earlier than Jan. 11.

Wrestling, deemed a high-risk sport, will be in the individual skills and training mode until further notice. Wrestling will be in Level 1 and 2.

The district is going to start practices Dec. 14 to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Everyone thought Dec. 14 felt better, Bourgoin said. “This is kind of what we did in the fall, too. We discouraged any group activities until we were ready to start.”

In other matters, Winslow Superintendent Peter Thiboutot said interviews for a new special education director will start this week and they should have a recommendation for the board by the next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21.

Thiboutot also commended the school nurses, teachers and community in their efforts in combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

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