FARMINGTON — The Mt. Blue (RSU 9) Board of Directors unanimously approved a COVID-19 policy for winter athletics at the Nov. 23 meeting. The policy includes guidelines for masking, participation in pool testing, the number of spectators, and adherence of guidelines at non-Mt. Blue facilities.

The most discussed guidelines are requirements for masking by all student-athletes participating in indoor sports and participation in pool testing for athletes and coaches in all sports.

The guidelines are in line with Maine CDC recommendations and guidelines from six, statewide education organizations: the Maine Principals’ Association (MPA), the Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA), the Maine Athletic Administrators Association, the Maine Music Educators Association, the Maine School Boards Association, and the Maine Athletic Trainers Association.

The universal masking for indoor sports is a departure from the drafted winter-athletics policy presented at the board’s Nov. 9 meeting. In that draft, student-athletes for indoor sports were required to wear masks at all points (in the locker room, on the sidelines, etc.) except while practicing or competing.

However, Mt. Blue amended the policy after the MPA released the recommendation from its Sports Medicine Committee.

During the meeting, Superintendent Chris Elkington told the board MPA (and additional organizations) had recommended universal masking in part “for concern” of the virus spreading. In addition, Elkington said the six organizations wanted there to be consistency across the different districts and venues to avoid instances where “student athletes would be asked to do something in a tournament that they weren’t asked to do before.”

The policy requires pool testing for all athletes and coaches “as a measure to proactively identify individuals who have COVID-19, to reduce the spread of COVID to teammates, and to limit the number of individuals required to quarantine due to being a close contact.”

“Our goal is to reduce the loss of in-person academic time and minimize the disruption of the sports schedule due to the possible spread of COVID among participants,” the policy states.

Vaccination guidelines for student wrestlers was another highly discussed policy. The approved policy no longer requires wrestlers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The initial draft was in line with the Maine Principal Association’s requirement that high school wrestlers be fully vaccinated. However, the MPA amended that policy to recommend vaccinations and require masks for wrestlers after facing immense backlash.

The approved guidelines on the number of spectators have also changed following the draft presentation. Now, each athlete is allowed six home/family members or friends to watch in a pod after the district got a better sense of spacing in the Mt. Blue campus gym. At that gym, an additional 75-100 Mt. Blue students will be allowed to attend.

The full list of Winter Athletics COVID-19 Guidelines for the 2021-22 school year are as follows:

• Universal masking for all student-athletes and coaches participating in indoor sports and spectators, officials attending competitions. The masking is required at all points — while competing, practicing, on the sidelines, on the bus, in the locker rooms, etc. Failure to comply with the mandate by student-athletes, coaches or spectators may result in an individual’s removal from the team, contest, the venue, or cessation/cancellation of a contest due to continued health and safety concerns.

• Masking is optional for all athletes, coaches, officials, and spectators at outdoor-sport practices or competitions. Masking is required, however, while using an indoor facility, such as a ski lodge or locker room.

• All student-athletes and coaches must participate in pool testing. Any student who misses their pool testing date will need to contact their coach immediately to reschedule testing before they will be allowed to participate in practices or competitions.

• Student-athletes in indoor sports at Mt. Blue High School are allowed to invite six family members or friends, seated in a pod, to attend. Around 75-100 students will also be allowed to attend events at the high school. At the middle school, student-athletes will only be allowed to invite four people and there will be no student spectators.

• Mt. Blue TV and Mt. Blue Athletics will stream games, competitions “whenever possible.”

• Mt. Blue locker rooms will be available to both home and away teams. The district will also sanitize locker rooms and competition areas after every event.

• COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended, but not required for all student-athletes and coaches.

• Food and drinks are allowed to be consumed at indoor events, however in a separate area from the site of the athletic competition. Food and drink inside venues such as ski lodges is prohibited. There are no other guidelines on food and drinks for sports practices, competitions taking place outdoors.

• While at tournaments or games hosted at non-Mt. Blue facilities/venues, all student-athletes and coaches must adhere to that facility’s guidelines, such as a requirement to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test 72 hours prior to competition. Failure to meet the tournament facility requirements may result in a Mt. Blue team not being allowed to compete in tournament play.

Additionally, coaches are required to enforce these guidelines. They must ensure that “masks are worn correctly, completely covering nose and mouth) and changed when wet, sweaty, or dirty”; everyone must regularly wash and sanitize their hands, especially when entering a facility or finishing a competition; students do not shake hands or high-five opponents at competition.

In the policy, Elkington wrote that there were multiple primary goals for the policy: to keep “staff and students as safe as we can”; to be able to effectively contact trace; avoid games from being postponed or canceled; to maintain “as much normalcy as possible” via allowing spectators.

Elkington described the policies as the district’s “best faith effort” to “support our student-athletes, staff and families … with our already strained resources.”

When directors expressed concerns about the policies being too strict at the Nov. 9 meeting, Elkington had responded that the district has already “reached capacity” due to staffing shortages and the many other adaptations administrators and staff have had to make to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines, he said.

“Please understand that our proposed guidelines have been made with a deep understanding of the realities that we face as a district, namely the capacity of our present staffing resources to meet these above goals,” Elkington wrote in the policy. “We, like you, would love to be able to go back to the time before COVID when we were not concerned with the threat of (COVID-19) and the consequences of a student, staff or family member contracting the virus that has been found to be disabling or deadly.”


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