As local school systems signal their intentions to open the new school year in a virtual format, a return to the playing fields could be delayed to 2021

by Gary Adornato

Although the MPSSAA has published a road map for the return to interscholastic athletics in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a major component in that road map is to let local districts determine when and how it is safe to resume regular practices and competitions, within the current guidelines set forth by the State of Maryland.

This week several school systems announced their intentions to open the 2020-2021 school year with a virtual and/or hybrid format, meaning students would not be in the school buildings or, in some cases, would be in the building at reduced capacities, split by time of day or days of the week. Although it is possible that the local school systems would allow some form of interscholastic athletics, it is not likely, considering the concerns over preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Already, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard Counties, as well as Baltimore City have announced that their students will be taught virtually at the start of the year. Baltimore City is delaying the start of in-person teaching until some point later in the fall, while the three counties will remain virtual until at least January.

Baltimore County has not yet made a final decision, but Schools Superintendent Daryl Williams has stated that he is “leaning toward remote learning” to start the year, before phasing to reopening schools at a 30-50% capacity with weekly rotations. A final decision could come on Aug. 11th following the next school board meeting. Carroll County is considering a similar virtual/hybird model. In addition, Cecil County has not yet made a decision on its plans, although the results of it’s re-entry survey show a majority of both students and parents favor a return to in-person learning at the start of the year.

Last week, the MIAA and IAAM released a joint statement announcing that both conferences have delayed the start of interscholastic practices until to Sept. 1 and the start of any games or competitions until at least Sept. 21. However, these dates will be re-evaluated as they draw closer and may be adjusted based on current state guidelines and health conditions. Of course, should these dates stand, individual member schools of each conference still may decide to not participate or may not be allowed to participate based on their own regulations tying them to guidelines set forth by their local jurisdiction. Both the MIAA and IAAM continue to explore options to further delay, shorten, move or cancel their sports seasons.

Already, Washington, D.C. has announced that it has postponed all interscholastic athletics until 2021. The fall season has been moved until after the winter season, beginning in February and ending in mid-April. The state of Virginia is considering a similar plan. However, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has announced it will begin its fall sports season as scheduled, on Aug. 10th, unless directed otherwise by state authorities.

In Varsity Sports Network’s opinion, the best opportunity to see any high school sports competition in the fall and early winter of the 2020-2021 school year will take place in the private schools. We do not expect normal league structures or full participation, but if enough schools determine it is safe enough for them to offer some form of athletic participation, and they are allowed to do so by their conference and current state guidelines, you may see these schools stage some games/competitions among themselves.