ELLSWORTH — Athletes at five of Hancock County’s six high schools must wait until at least early August to resume team activities after a decision by Hancock County school superintendents to suspend summer programs through the end of July.
Under Maine Principals’ Association guidelines, Maine high schools were eligible to begin certain offseason workouts last Monday after a long hiatus that included the total cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season. Activities resumed at schools such as Brewer, Edward Little, Mountain Valley and Waterville.
In Hancock County, though, summer workouts and conditioning drills have been delayed until at least Aug. 3 at Ellsworth, Bucksport, Mount Desert Island, Sumner and Deer Isle-Stonington high schools. The agreement means that team gatherings and use of school facilities will remain off limits throughout the month of July.
“We thrive in the presence of our student-athletes and coaches,” MDI Athletic Director Bunky Dow said in a letter to athletes and parents. “This decision is made so that we can be best positioned to start school in the fall with in-person learning and [extracurricular] activities.”
The agreement follows similar county-wide delays on summer activities made in Cumberland and York counties. High schools in other parts of the state are making decisions on team workouts, practices and other gatherings on a school-by-school basis.
Coaches are still able to communicate with athletes and issue sport-specific workouts and conditioning regiments. The MPA has waived the traditional “hands-off” period prior the start of the fall season. The two-week period was scheduled to last from Aug. 3-16.
Further changes as to when offseason team activities may resume, though, are not out of the question. In a message to his school, Sumner Principal Ty Thurlow said that administrators will “continually assess to see if we can start in August” as the Aug. 3 date approaches.
“We are going to be using the month of July to assess and reassess our ability and the appropriateness to begin our fall sports training,” Thurlow said. “[We are] working very closely with athletic directors in our area and around the state as well as with the Maine Principals’ Association to look at not only guidelines but our ability to hold those programs and any training.”
George Stevens Academy, a private school, is not part of the additional four-week moratorium on team activities, Athletic Director Larry Gray told The Ellsworth American on Monday. GSA has thus been eligible to resume team activities as laid out under MPA guidelines.
In regards to what a 2020 fall sports season, if one takes place, would look like, Dow said no decisions have been made as of yet. With the designated Aug. 17 start date for practices just over a month away, all options — a full season, a canceled season, a season with limited offerings and even a proposed flip of the fall and spring seasons — are still on the table.
“We eagerly await the day we all come back together on campus, in the classrooms and on the playing/performing surfaces together,” Dow said. “However, we need to be cautious and deliberate regarding how and when we resume [extracurricular] activities.”