By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor
High school student-athletes at Maryland public high schools can return to practice starting on Feb. 1, 2021, according to a new two-semester guidance plan released by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) on Friday.
In consultation with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and the Public School Superintendent Association of Maryland (PSSAM), the plan explains when student-athletes of all 24 local school systems will return to interscholastic athletic opportunities as they also gradually return to in-person education.
“The MPSSAA developed this plan to allow for [local school systems] flexibility to maximize participation opportunities for the engagement of students during the first semester and sets a plan for sport competition in the second semester,” the plan states.
Each season will have a 20-day preseason and five weeks of athletic competition. It starts with the winter sports’ practice and conditioning between Feb. 1-21 and games beginning on Feb. 22.
Fall sports, postponed due to the pandemic, would start their preseason training on March 15 and play games between April 5 and May 8. Lastly, spring sports practices can begin on April 26, and competitions will begin on May 17.
According to the guidance plan, MPSSAA will look for “creative ways” to have a state tournament and announce those plans as the second semester gets closer. The association does not have control over middle school programs, and each jurisdiction will decide the future of those programs.
The guidance plan can be found on the MPSSAA’s website, including information on athletic eligibility and school participation before competitions begin.
Maryland is moving into a Stage Three reopening, but Prince George’s and Montgomery counties will remain under Stage Two. Both counties have also said that they will not start in-person learning until their jurisdiction reaches a certain positivity rate threshold of COVID-19.
The association also announced that effective immediately, each jurisdiction may allow combination of virtual practices or in-person conditioning, skill building sessions, sport-specific practices, intramurals or intra-school/inter-school scrimmages.
“All students, coaches, athletic directors, and principals should consult with their [local school systems] on criteria in place that allow for increased socialization and use of facilities,” the guidance plan said. “This document is intended to be fluid and will be modified as needed based on guidance from the MSDE, the PSSAM and the Maryland Department of Health.”