St. Mary’s public high schools are bringing back sports this semester, but in a different way.
The school system announced first semester athletics and extracurricular engagement will begin Sept. 21 with an abbreviated season for what are normally spring sports, before offering shortened fall and then winter sports seasons. A Monday press release stated the plan will ensure a safe return to in-person participation in athletics, maximize participation opportunities and align with state and local guidelines.
Athletics and extracurriculars in the first semester will have skill development, team practices, intra-school scrimmages and possibly in-county scrimmages. It will also include virtual engagement, in-person weight training and conditioning.
Southern Maryland students were recently participating in outdoor summer workouts.
“The health and safety of our student participants, coaches, and sponsors is our top priority,” the press release stated. “Modification or cancellation of the first semester athletic and extracurricular engagement plan may happen at any time and will be based on current local and state data related to COVID-19.”
Marvin Jones, Charles County’s executive director of schools, said they have not finalized any athletic plans for that county’s high schools yet, but are hoping to do off-season conditioning in late September or early October.
“We wanted to see what would come out of this meeting,” he said at a meeting where school board members decided to wait until Nov. 5 to return any students.
He said the school system is in close contact with St. Mary’s and Calvert public schools’ officials.
Calvert public schools announced last week the high schools will have voluntary strength and conditioning workouts for athletes outside and in the weight room.
“We understand the importance of athletics and extracurricular activities for the health and social emotional well-being of students,” Superintendent Daniel Curry said in a press release. “We have specific guidelines in place for the safety of our athletes and coaches during the fall workouts, and we are exploring ways for other school clubs and activities to occur safely.”
Catherine Page, spokesperson for Calvert schools, said they have no further updates to those plans.
St. Mary’s announcement came a month after the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association postponed fall and winter sports for public schools. The Aug. 3 announcement stated school systems can use a waiver that would allow interscholastic athletic opportunities based on local COVID-19 conditions.
The MPSSAA also stated at the time the association is working on a hybrid two-semester plan focused on student engagement option in the first semester and modified seasons for all sports during the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year.
All students participating in St. Mary’s sports will be required to have a current physical on file with the school and a signed COVID-19 acknowledgement form. The form indicates information on the virus was provided and understood by the parent and student.
Spring sports will be offered from Sept. 21 to Oct. 23, fall sports from Oct. 26 to Dec. 4, and winter sports from Dec. 7 to Jan. 28, precluding Thanksgiving and winter breaks, according to a Twitter post by Mike Watson, St. Mary’s public schools’ director of facility coordination, health and physical education, and athletics.
Additional operational guidelines include a daily contact tracing form, a gradual return to conditioning, social distancing, face coverings, hand washing and hydration.
St. Mary’s schools states its plan aligns with the county health department, the state’s education department, MPSSAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations. A committee of stakeholders from St. Mary’s school system helped create the procedures and guidelines.
For more information on St. Mary’s athletic plan, contact a school’s athletic director or email Michael Watson, director of facility coordination, health and physical education, and athletics at email@example.com.