In this Oct. 25, 2019, file photo, Hampden Academy's Robert Buzzini (partially obscured) and Bangor midfielder Damian Sheffer (13) compete for the ball during a soccer game in Bangor. The Maine Principals' Association has not made a recommendation on the fall sports season while awaiting guidance on conflicting state regulations.  Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

No decision has been reached yet on high school sports in Maine this fall.

The Maine Principals’ Association Interscholastic Management Committee met Tuesday morning amid speculation it might vote to not stage fall high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, but no vote was taken.

MPA officials did not present a recommendation as they await further state guidance.

The revised schedule for Maine’s fall sports season calls for formal tryouts in football, soccer, field hockey, cross country and volleyball to begin Sept. 8, with games slated to start on Sept. 18. Aroostook County schools were eligible to begin practicing on Monday to account for the potato harvest break in October.

But the MPA does not want to forward any recommendation to the interscholastic management committee — which would take a final vote that would still be subject to local control if the decision is to proceed with fall sports — until differences in two sets of state guidelines are addressed, according to Mike Burnham, the MPA’s interscholastic executive director.

Those differences include varying standards for the wearing of face coverings and social distancing between the Department of Education’s Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction and the more relaxed guidelines issued by the Department of Economic and Community Development for community sports programs such as summer baseball leagues or basketball programs.

“We felt there were two different sets of standards that were out there,” Burnham said. “The community sports were operating under one set of standards and the schools and school-based programs were operating under a separate set of guidelines.”

MPA officials met again last week with Department of Education representatives, after which Burnham penned a letter to several state agencies seeking to bring the two sets of standards closer together.

Follow-up meetings were held Monday with several state agencies and now the MPA is awaiting possible revisions to the state’s school and community sports guidelines.

“We felt that if these guidelines were looked at and we could make some modifications to the guidelines similar to what the community sports do that we could very well work with all of our stakeholders’ groups and maybe offer these activities safely,” Burnham said.

“This is not a decision that can be made in a vacuum, there are a lot of key players involved here,” he added.

That effort to address the differing guidelines began as Burnham said the momentum was leaning toward not offering varsity sports this fall. That would mark the second straight sports season that would have been canceled.

“I think I would be remiss if I didn’t say if we continue to follow the Department of Education and really centering on the use of masks as well as the physical distancing — just two weeks ago it was released for outdoor [physical education] classes that they recommend 14 feet for physical distancing — our sports committees did not feel that was possible for us to adhere to with any of our athletic offerings,” Burnham said.

“However, if we were to get some revised guidance, then the recommendation would be that we continue forward with any activity we can safely offer.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...