Maine SAD 70 superintendent Stephen Fitzpatrick speaks during the school board meeting held by the district on Oct. 12. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

HODGDON, Maine — The advent of winter sports is slowly approaching, and some Aroostook schools, including Hodgdon’s SAD 70, may have to make some tough decisions about how to properly conduct indoor sports.

Hodgdon’s Mill Pond Elementary and its middle/high schools are two of the few schools in The County to have optional masking policies, as most schools have universal masking for staff and students. SAD 70 superintendent Stephen Fitzpatrick said that could cause some schools to balk at sending their student athletes to play at Hodgdon in the winter, when sports move to indoor locations.

“Some schools who are universally masked are concerned about coming to Hodgdon, where they’re going to be exposed to unmasked students potentially, to the point where they may opt not to play,” Fitzpatrick said. “[Schools] have not told me to this point that they are not coming, but they have raised that concern.”

The Maine Principals Association, which governs interscholastic sports in the state, has not set a policy for how to conduct winter sports this season. That means that educators on a local level may be left to their own policies, which could include not playing at schools where exposure risk is higher.

But the prospect of visiting teams canceling matchups did little to persuade some of the anti-mask members of Hodgdon’s school board, such as David Harris, to change the policy. He noted that the neighboring Houlton school district, which has a mask mandate, had to cancel several outdoor games due to an outbreak among students.

“What would be a more effective method is, why can’t we pool test our players?” Harris said. “That’s a more effective method than masks.”

Ultimately, the board decided to table the discussion until further information was available regarding the winter sports situation.

SAD 70 currently has an outbreak reported at its Mill Pond Elementary school, with 13 confirmed cases and 178 close contacts, but no reported outbreak so far at its middle/high school.