All Maryland school systems can begin an in-person formal fall sports season on Oct. 7, State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced at a press conference Thursday.
Practices can begin Oct. 7 and competition season begins Oct. 27. The golf competition season is the exception and it begins Oct. 7, also. School systems that choose not to begin the fall sports season Oct. 7 can continue to follow a plan from the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA). Under that plan, practice can start February 1, 2021 and competition season would begin February 22, 2021. After Salmon’s announcement, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) released a statement saying they will continue with this plan and keep sports virtual for now.
“At this time, MCPS will continue with its plans as outlined in our R.A.I.S.E. Reimagined Framework for virtual athletics in order to ensure the health and safety of students, staff members and stakeholders,” the statement reads. MCPS said they will review the new state guidance.
Although the decision rests with school boards, Salmon said the state department of education encourages school systems that are bringing students back to consider allowing sports as well.
“High school sports and competition are deeply rooted in the fabric of our schools and communities,” she said. She is especially worried about letting students go too long without being able to practice.
“The thing that we’re most concerned about with our student athletes, for example, is that if we wait to do any kind of conditioning or involvement in sports until say, February, those students will have been out of conditioning and practice for almost an entire calendar year, it’s just very concerning.”
She said the mentorship and daily structure that comes from sports programs helps at-risk youth and provides equal opportunities.
“These programs have had a history of providing opportunities for all students and not those just with the economic capacities to participate,” Salmon said.
Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that all 24 Maryland jurisdictions have state-approved plans to bring at least some students back into school buildings this fall. On Aug. 27 Hogan had said eight school systems did not include any in-person learning in their fall reopening plans, which he said was not acceptable.
MCPS Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said the school system is working on plans to possibly bring back small groups of students with specific needs like those in special education programs and those receiving language services. She said the school board will discuss more during its next meeting on Oct. 6.
Getting our kids back on the playing field is critical for their social and mental wellbeing. Allowing fall sports to begin next month marks another important step on our road to recovery.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) September 24, 2020