MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Following Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon’s announcement that all state schools can safely begin high school sports as early as Oct. 7, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) also announced its plans to continue its fall sports season virtually.
A MCPS spokesperson said the fall virtual sports season has already begun for its high schools and the district will continue to engage in its virtual athletics program for this semester.
While MCPS officials said it will remain virtual, Montgomery County recreation and sports organizations have been able to make playing sports during a pandemic work.
“The fact that we're even here playing I think is really a small miracle. How is it working? I think we've gotten great responses from our soccer community,” MSI Board Chair Adam Prill said. “They're very excited to be outside on the fields. You know, just having fun, it's not without challenges.”
Prill said MSI has been following the guidance of local authorities and have limited the number of spectators, mapped out where spectators can go, put together a COVID-19 rule book, and required everyone at the games to wear a mask.
“So far 150 games in and it's been a great experience,” MSI Executive Director Doug Schuessler said. “We've had an extraordinarily positive experience with that in terms of compliance with the COVID-19 related rules, with the wearing of face masks by players and coaches, and to be clear, our rule has been that players must wear face masks during gameplay which has been the county rule up until just a couple of days ago. But we've had a terrific experience with that.”
Schuessler said kids and parents are happy to have their kids out and playing again, all while he said they are following the advice and guidance of medical experts.
As for when school sports will resume in Montgomery County, MCPS officials said it's staying with the virtual sports model for the fall semester.
Schuessler, who has been a coach for MCPS for 25 years, said based on his experience it would be very challenging to run high school sports during a pandemic.
“Kids are not in the school, so they're not there for practice. They would need to be transported there, and you can say that the same thing is true for youth sports but that generally occurs in evenings and on the weekends,” Schuessler said. “I think that there's a lot of challenges for some sports that need to be both inside and outside at different times using locker rooms and whatnot. It would be very challenging to run high school sports.”
For now, while Schuessler focuses on both his virtual MCPS team and MSI team, he said safety is first and foremost.
“I would just say we're gonna put safety first and foremost for our players, for our families, for our referees, for our staff, for our volunteers,” Schuessler said.
Allegany, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Carroll, Charles, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, St. Mary’s, Washington, and Worcester have plans to bring students back to school for fall sports.
A spokesperson for Prince George's County Public Schools said they don't have a comment on its plan for the sports season at this time.