By Jose Umana and Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributors
BETHESDA — Two of the state’s largest school districts have announced the cancellation of fall sports for the 2020 season.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement Tuesday that the school system will provide virtual-only learning for the first semester. The model also includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports.
Ever since MCPS leaders have been exploring different methods to reopen schools in the fall, they have received additional guidance from Travis Gayles from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Smith, Gayles recommended that in-person instruction should not take place in school buildings. Instead, MCPS’ original plan of going virtual-only learning for at least until the end of the first semester on Jan. 29, 2021, or when state and local health officials approve their return would be the safer option.
“This decision includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports,” Smith said.
Smith said MCPS would reassess after the first quarter (Nov. 9) to determine if it can implement a phased blended model in the second semester, which begins Feb. 1, 2021.
“We will continue to engage with our community as we continue to navigate this incredibly complex situation,” Smith said.
The sports that are affected include football, basketball, indoor track, wrestling, volleyball, cross country, soccer, field hockey and swimming.
In a letter to the county’s sports community, Athletic Director Jeffrey Sullivan said that the department is “deeply saddened” by the cancelation, but health and safety is the No. 1 priority.
“When the time comes for us to return to action, we will do what we do best–provide meaningful opportunities for our student-athletes to excel and bring our communities together,” Sullivan said.
PGCPS puts athletics on hold during distant learning phase
Montgomery County’s decision comes as Prince George’s County Schools (PGCPS) announced its decision to put athletics on hold for the fall semester last Wednesday.
During her press conference about the school system’s reopening plans, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson said she had to address athletics after receiving “daily” questions on its status. When school starts on Aug. 31, PGCPS will open virtually with distance learning until the end of the second quarter on Jan. 29, 2021.
With the focus on ensuring the proper education and safety to students during the pandemic, Goldson said PGCPS could not operate athletics when the school year begins.
“At this time, we will not be able to implement interscholastic activities that will allow our students to remain safe,” Goldson said.
Instead, all student-athletes will be able to work together with their school’s athletic directors in virtual seminars. Other accommodations will be made for student-athletes who were preparing for recruiting and applying for college, according to a Twitter town hall PGCPS conducted.
Unlike MCPS, Goldson did not say when the hold on sports would end. In a statement, the Office of Interscholastic Athletics said as PGCPS enters the next phase of virtual learning, athletics will restart at “the lowest risk of participation” for students and staff, including at-home conditioning, a virtual re-introduction of athletics and additional online resources.
“We will continue to keep you updated around the state as decisions are made surrounding athletic sports, but we will be offering opportunities for students in their clubs and organizations to continue virtually,” Goldson said.
Both counties’ decisions come after Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced the state’s education system voted in favor of allowing each jurisdiction to control how to navigate its athletic programs.
Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties will all go virtual learning in the fall. However, only Baltimore County has joined Montgomery and Prince George’s in postponing their fall and winter athletic season.
MPSSAA released its Roadmap for Return of Interscholastic Athletics, which provides detailed guidelines for how counties should handle any cancelation of activities, modified and gradual resumption of sports and full resumption and administration of activities.
The state’s athletic association will update and modify the fall practice schedule on July 21 and 28 and Aug. 4. Depending on the number of schools participating in a regular season, MPSSAA will determine the status of the fall state championships in October.