Sumner celebrates their Class C state championship victory in February 2020 at the Augusta Civic Center. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The Regional School Unit 24 board of directors, which earlier this month voted not to offer interscholastic winter sports at Sumner High School in Sullivan this winter, reversed course Tuesday evening.

The board voted 6-1 to authorize RSU 24 Superintendent of Schools Michael Eastman to develop and implement a winter sports program for the district involving basketball, cheering and indoor track.

That nullified a 6-3 vote on Dec. 1 to opt out of a winter sports program amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sumner Parent Partnership, a parent organization associated with Sumner High School, subsequently met and made a formal request for the board to reconsider that vote, which led to Tuesday’s decision.

“We had about 50 people in attendance on Zoom,” Eastman said of the board’s discussion of the issue. “It was not heated but it was fruitful, a healthy conversation.”

Eastman said Sumner athletic administrator Rick Dube now will work to create a winter sports program and schedules for high school teams in accordance with state and Maine Principals’ Association guidelines.

Coaches also will be tasked with taking a video course on the coronavirus offered by the National Federation of State High School Associations titled “COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators.”

“Training of our coaches will be a priority, and then we’re hopeful that by the mid- to latter-part of next week we’ll be able to get kids in the gym,” Eastman said.

Winter sports teams around the state have been able since Dec. 7 to participate in workouts that offer skill-building drills or conditioning with physical distancing and in limited numbers when possible.

Formal team practices are scheduled to begin Jan. 4, 2021, with games set to begin no sooner than Jan. 11.

Teams around the state will play regionalized schedules, meaning Sumner is likely to play its basketball games against opponents from Hancock and Washington counties.

The basketball schedule, normally a maximum of 18 games, will be a maximum of 12 regular-season games this winter between Jan. 11 and Feb. 27. Postseason play within regional pods is expected to conclude the season.

Virtual competitions are under consideration for cheering — a sport in which Sumner is the reigning Class C state champion.

Indoor track may face a less certain future, as the sport is dependent on the availability of college facilities to host meets and those sites have been closed to the public during the pandemic.

In addition, all indoor sports are subject to the state limit on indoor gatherings of 50 people.

“We’d stay locally as the guidelines say and we’ll absolutely adhere to the number of games the guidelines ask for,” Eastman said. “We’ll just do our best to give our kids a playing experience that’s enjoyable.”

This will mark the first sports season for student-athletes at Sumner since last winter. The 2020 spring sports schedule was canceled around the state after the arrival of the coronavirus in the United States in March, and the RSU 24 school board in September opted out of a fall sports season.

RSU 24 serves the Hancock County communities of Eastbrook, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Mariaville, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor and the Washington County town of Steuben.

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...