No fall interscholastic sports. That was the unanimous vote of the RSU 24 Board. It was an easy vote, but that doesn’t mean it was painless for us to make.
Easy because if you look at the guidelines for how to prevent transmission in scenarios with physical exertion, there is no way that competitive, often contact-based sports can take place. Easy because there are as few as two degrees of separation between the outbreak in Millinocket and Sumner when schools play each other. Easy because one cannot with a straight face hold students to stringent guidelines from 8 to 2:30, and then throw them out the window when a competition starts. Easy because if show choir and other non-athletic clubs/activities will not happen because they cannot operate within safety guidelines, then we cannot make an exception for athletics.
Easy enough that both liberal and conservative members of the board all voted the same way.
The board regrets every lost opportunity for students to participate in any area. Taking away is the opposite of what the board wants to do. There are many traditional elements of youth as they relate to school that have been lost due to this pandemic. The classes of at least 2020 and 2021 have no reasonable precedents to guide us.
While, to date, no Maine resident under 20 has died as a result of the virus, there is plenty of evidence of long-term collateral damage for even the young and healthy. Fatigue, shortness of breath, achy joints, blood clots presenting in multiple tissues, and overall brain, heart, lung and kidney damage — these are the scars a person who “survived” COVID may be forced to live with. That could be a long time for a high school student, or maybe not.
I personally was not an athlete while a student at Sumner; I was a drama geek. As a board member, I value all activities and ways to expand offerings. But I would much rather lose sports and drama and music for a period of time, than confront the possibility that we enabled the death of one or more students, a family member, or community member, or at best condemned them to a lifetime of permanent disability from the after effects.
I don’t want an outbreak in our towns to be the legacy of the Class of 2021.
Chairman of the RSU 24 Board of Directors