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The state has restored some of the decision making about conducting high school athletics during the COVID-19 pandemic to local districts.

After meeting Tuesday with representatives of state agencies, the Maine Principals’ Association and the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association issued a statement that explains a change in the application of the Department of Education’s color coding system.

“After meeting with the state health and education agencies, a change has been made regarding the color coding currently being used by schools,” the MPA statement read. “The color coding system will be used as advisory to in-person learning but will no longer apply to school-based activities. “

The decision will immediately impact extracurricular activities in schools in Maine counties designated “yellow” by the state because of the prevalence of COVID-19 cases.

Under the original interpretation, those schools were not allowed to conduct sports practices if their home county was yellow. Now, the decision about whether to offer those activities will be left up to the local school districts.

“If it is deemed safe to do so by local administration, teams can begin practicing following the established sport-specific return to play guidelines,” the MPA said.

That means schools in Cumberland, York, Androscoggin and York counties, which have been unable to hold team activities, may return to practice.

The MPA stressed that because students in those counties have not been participating in athletics activities for a long time, each school is tasked with establishing a time frame during which athletes can develop their conditioning before competing in games.

The MPA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is leaving it up to the schools to determine those plans rather than recommending a mandatory number of days.

The MPA hopes providing opportunities for more student-athletes to take part in sports and other extracurricular activities can help lessen how much they are impacted by the pandemic.

“We all know the key role that education-based activities play in the physical and emotional well-being of our students,” the MPA said. “We as associations promote any opportunity that we can to find ways to engage kids in these school-based programs, especially when we know that many of them are struggling with their remote learning.”

Many teams from schools in green counties, including most of those in Penobscot, Aroostook, Piscataquis, Washington and Waldo counties, began playing basketball and hockey games last week.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...