Council to Review Future of High School Football Friday

After hearing from many constituents and following a March 14 rally by high school football players, members of the Montgomery County Council agreed Tuesday to relook at its decision to disallow contact football at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The matter is tentatively scheduled for discussion on March 19.

Last week, the council relaxed some of its COVID-19 related restrictions, increasing capacity at restaurants and bars, but stopping football in full padded gear. MCPS football teams had been preparing for a shortened, three-game season. Normally, the teams play 10 games.

“The sooner we can get to it, I believe we will be better off,” said Councilmember Sidney Katz, referring to a decision on contact football.

If a decision is made to allow football games, with mandatory mask wearing and coronavirus testing, the teams could begin practicing March 20, said Councilmember Hans Riemer. Meanwhile, high school athletic teams are urged to prepare a waiver request that would be ready when a decision comes down.

Councilmember Nancy Navarro urged all sports participation be treated equitably. Some have questioned why indoor hockey is considered a medium contact sport while outdoor football is considered high risk. Councilmember Andrew Friedson explained that modified youth hockey does not permit hitting, and that it is why it was approved, while full contact football was not.

“I strongly do believe kids need sports,” Friedson said during Tuesday morning’s council meeting. He called sports an important part of a young person’s mental and physical well-being.

Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said he believed his department and MCPS officials could work something out to allow football to continue, but it would require mask wearing, participants being up front and reporting when they come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as contact tracing.

“We need to provide extreme caution in moving forward,” Gayles said.

He pointed to Howard County, where six high schools have had positive tests related to athletics. In Montgomery County, Northwest High School in Germantown had a positive COVID-19 test three days after an individual participated in athletics on March 12, according to a letter sent home to families.

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