FRYEBURG, Maine — The start of the fall sports season season for athletes in the Pine Tree State has been pushed back at least another week, and, so too, has the decision on whether state officials will sign off on sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will be conditioned machines by the time we start,” joked Fryeburg Academy Athletic Director Sue Thurston on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Executive Director Mike Burnham and Assistant Executive Director Mike Bisson of the Maine Principals Association sent out and update and a news release to the Maine high school principals and athletic directors offering an update on where things stand.

“Please know that everyone in the MPA office knows how hard each of you are working and truly appreciate your efforts,” they wrote in announcing that the start of the fall season had been pushed back from today, Sept. 8, to Monday, Sept. 14.

They added: “Phase 4 Summer Guidelines will be extended by one week. We want to emphasize that these remain a part of summer workouts. These are not intended to be tryouts for fall programs or mandatory practices for all athletes. They should be optional with an emphasis on conditioning for those athletes. They are now open to fall athletes only to hopefully eliminate the conflict that some athletes may have been feeling between a fall activity and a winter or spring activity.”

The following release was sent out Wednesday afternoon from Augusta, Maine.

AUGUSTA – The Maine Principals’ Association, the Maine School Boards Association, the Maine School Superintendents Association, and the Mills Administration released the following statements today on interscholastic fall sports in Maine:

“The Maine Principals’ Association agrees with the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education that it would be best to extend the delay of fall sports by one additional week to allow schools to get their academic programs underway as we further adjust our guidance,” said Mike Burnham, Executive Director of the Maine Principals’ Association. “In the coming days, we will work closely and collaboratively with the Administration to modify our guidance and arrive at a solution that will honor the State’s safety protocols and protect the health and safety of student athletes along with their communities.

“We are grateful to the departments for their response to our request for feedback and look forward to working with them so that students may be able to play sports as quickly and as safely as possible.”

“I am a firm believer in the value of school sports which support the physical, social, and mental health of young people,” said Gov. Janet Mills. “I want to see fall sports come back this year in a way that protects the health of students on the field, in the locker room and in the classroom, while safeguarding members of the larger community.

“I am asking my commissioners to work as a team with the MPA, the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association to address concerns about the guidance as quickly as possible with the most important goal in mind: protecting the health and safety of Maine students, their extended families, their teachers and fellow students and all members of our broader Maine community.”

“We appreciate the Maine Principals’ Association’s commitment to protecting the health and safety of Maine’s student athletes as well as their fellow students, school staff, and families — a commitment we share,” said Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “We recognize the sense of urgency but believe this additional time will allow schools to focus on the challenges of resuming classes and result in guidance that allows school sports consistent with the State’s public health measures and that safeguards the health and safety of all Maine students. We will work closely with MPA, the Maine School Boards Association, and the Maine School Superintendents Association on a path forward.”

“Maine School Boards Association and Superintendents Association have a history of working closely with our partners at the MPA and the State to serve the best interests of Maine students and schools,” said Steve Bailey and Eileen King, executive directors of the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association, respectively. “We are pleased there will be additional time to allow for a safe startup of schools as in-person classes resume and to align MPA guidance with the State’s health and safety protocols.

“We fully appreciate the importance of athletic programs and other co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in whole-child development, and believe, as do our partners, that the health and safety of students, staff, and communities are of the utmost importance during this pandemic.”

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