BCPS re­open­ing plan casts doubt on fall and win­ter sports

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com

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 Se­con­dar y 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.

PHO­TOS BY BILL GATES

The se­niors on this year’s Spar­rows Point girls soc­cer team may not get a chance to win an­other county ti­tle if the fall sea­son is can­celled due to COVID-19.

Fans may not get a chance to see the Dun­dalk foot­ball team make an­other play­off run this fall.

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