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The Maine Principals’ Association, citing continued concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and a recommendation by the Maine Commissioner of Education, decided Thursday to cancel outright the 2020 spring high school sports season.
The decision, made during a meeting of the MPA Board of Directors and Interscholastic Management Committee, was not unexpected given recent events.
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“Please know that this was not a decision that was taken lightly, but one that the leadership at the MPA felt necessary to help support the recommendations from our Governor’s Office, the Maine CDC, and Commissioner Pender Makin, and the Department of Education, that schools across the state not come back in session and provide remote and distance learning opportunities for the remainder of the school year,” the MPA said in a release.
Mike Burnham, the executive director of the MPA interscholastic division, said the organization’s meeting on Thursday morning lasted two hours.
“It was a heart-wrenching decision,” Burnham said. “You hate to see kids lose these opportunities. We know how important these activities are to young people, their families, their communities and their schools. We would have loved to be able to offer spring activities.”
Yet under the circumstances, MPA officials believed that they had no choice.
“This is a crisis. We can’t take it lightly. You never want to put kids, their families or their communities at risk,” Burnham said. “You have to pay attention to the experts in the field.”
Makin on Wednesday had issued a recommendation that Maine teachers plan to work remotely for the remainder of the school year. She cited the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in announcing the recommendation. Gov. Janet Mills announced that Maine schools would remain closed until at least May 1 as part of a stay-at-home order for Maine residents issued on March 31.
Burnham said there was discussion about pushing the starting date back from April 27 until sometime in May but that was viewed as delaying the inevitable. He said it was crucial to uphold the guidelines established by the Maine CDC and the governor’s office pertaining to social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The MPA board of directors and Interscholastic Management Committee had on March 13 voted to delay the start of the spring season practices until April 27.
“We want to recognize the efforts of the hardworking dedicated educators across the entire state as they provide distance learning opportunities to students in pre-K through 12th grade and to thank them for their work during this COVID-19 crisis,” the MPA said. “We also want to recognize the important role that coaches and advisors play in the lives of our young people and would encourage them to continue to reach out to their team members to provide the emotional support that so many students need during this time of uncertainty.”
Maine is the only New England state to have canceled the spring high school season.
Vermont on March 26 postponed high school sports indefinitely to fall in line with a state stay-at-home executive order. Connecticut also has put the spring season on hold until further notice.
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island all are holding out hope to have a spring season and have pushed the earliest starting date to May 4.
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