High school sports in Maryland could resume by Dec. 7, board of education votes

After Maryland’s state athletic association last month permitted high school sports to begin in October, only three small counties went ahead with plans to do so. Others remained committed to beginning in February, with condensed fall, winter and spring seasons in the second academic semester.

a group of people standing in a room: High school basketball at Maryland schools such as Wise could begin as early as December.

© Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post
High school basketball at Maryland schools such as Wise could begin as early as December.

However, the Maryland State Board of Education voted Monday to move the start date to Dec. 7, and that’s when winter sports practice will begin under the new plan. Winter competitions will occur between Jan. 4 and Feb. 13.

The vote pushes up the start date nearly two months, though with the coronavirus still a threat, nothing is definitive. Case numbers nationally have risen throughout October, and in Maryland the seven-day average as of Monday was 670 new cases per day.

If all goes to plan, the traditional fall sports season will compete between March 5 and April 7, followed by a spring sports season between May 7 and June 19. The revised agenda grants an extra week of competitions for each condensed season.

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The only Maryland counties planning to commence competitions Tuesday are Allegany, Garrett and Washington. Last month, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and State Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon ruled high school sports could resume in October, but most counties opted out of that date due to concerns over the novel coronavirus outbreak and the optics of playing sports while classes are still being conducted virtually. Hogan and Salmon’s announcement overruled the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s original decision from August to wait until at least January to launch high school sports.

Some counties, including Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s, are holding in-person conditioning but weren’t planning to partake in competitions until February before Monday’s announcement. The MPSSAA says counties are required to participate within the state’s defined sports seasons and teams must practice at least 20 days before competition. That means if a county doesn’t allow practices in December, those teams will miss the start of the winter sports season. Montgomery, Maryland’s largest county, and others released statements saying they will review the plan announced Monday.

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The Maryland Department of Health requires face coverings at indoor athletic events. When outdoors, it requires face coverings when unable to maintain at least six feet of distance from others. The MPSSAA says schools may limit the number of spectators allowed to attend games and recommends teams avoid using locker rooms.

D.C. and Virginia are on track for similar starts as Maryland. Practices for D.C. schools can begin Dec. 14, with competitions starting Jan 4. Virginia schools can practice Dec. 7 and play games Dec. 28.

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