With last week’s decision by the Baltimore County School Board to re-open schools on Sept. 8 with full remote learning for the entire first semester, the fate of the fall and winter sports seasons has been thrown into doubt.
(The semester ends on January 29, which is when winter sports are preparing to enter their respective postseasons.)
The official word from Baltimore County, in the draft of the remote learning plan (which still must be approved by the Maryland State Board of Education), is that fall and winter sports have been “postponed.”
“Based on student and adult safety, and the current prevalence of COVID-19, the start of the athletic season will be postponed while instruction is virtual and until it is safe to conduct all the various facets of organized team sports,” the draft of the plan reads.
“[Code of Maryland Regulations] waivers allow each school system to determine the start of end dates of each sports season and, as such, the Office of Athletics is working to re-imagine how interscholastic athletics may proceed.”
The key sentence is “the start of the athletic season will be postponed while instruction is virtual.” This means, while county schools are using the proposed remote learning plan, there can be no interscholastic athletics.
And the plan, as noted. calls for remote learning to be held until January 29.
So, for the moment, fall athletes are facing the possibility of losing their senior seasons.
County rules also states that no athletics can be held while schools are closed. Schools technically will be in session during remote learning; but the physical facilities will be closed.
“I don’t know if we have a concrete answer for that,” Sparrows Point athletic director Paul Latanishen said. “We are in a holding pattern, need to be prepared for anything and just have to remain flexible.”
The impact of the fall and winter seasons possibly being cancelled, on the heels of last spring season being cancelled, will be particularly felt at schools like Sparrows Point.
The Edgemere-Sparrows Point community is know for taking great pride in the accomplishments of the Pointer athletic department.
Over the last 10 years, Sparrows Point has six girls soccer state titles, one boys soccer state title, several track and field state titles, three softball state championship game appearances, state final berths by the baseball and boys lacrosse teams, a state team tennis title, wrestling individual state titles and three appearances in the state duals championship match, and numerous regional and county titles.
“There are so many layers to this: the complexity of the decision and subsequent ripple effects are hard to comprehend,” Latanishen said. “Obviously, we are an extension of the educational experience. Interscholastic athletics improves attendance, GPA and graduation rates, while helping shape character and enrich the educational experience.
“It’s also such a cornerstone to our community. To say ‘there is something missing’ right now is a monumental understatement. We have a number of new coaches, in some case head coaches who were so excited to get started — and a number of teams that were looking to make a statement this fall.”
Schools that don’t have quite the level of athletic success as Sparrows Point will still feel the loss if the fall sports season doesn’t happen.
“I’ve been watching high school football since the early 1980’s when my local high school’s running back set the state rushing mark,” Patapsco athletic director Chris McGuinness said. “The atmosphere of high school football and the role of bringing the community together is what I’ll miss.
“Same with the other sports: it brings us all together at a neighborhood level. I love competition and fitness, but the local community and alumni coming together is what I enjoy the most. Everyone feels a part and is connected. You don’t get that in other levels of sports.”
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, which does have the final say on whether athletics return and in what fashion, has not updated its “Roadmap for Return of Interscholastic Athletics” since July 7.
The MPSSAA has tied the return of athletics to the state’s “Roadmap to Recovery,” stating no athletics until the state is in Phase 3 of the recovery plan. Maryland is currently in Phase 2.