Roughly 48 hours after the Maine Department of Education reported its recommendation all schools close for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, the Maine Principals’ Association followed suit and delivered the news high school student-athletes, coaches and fans have, for weeks, dreaded.

The MPA announced on Thursday afternoon, April 9, that, in light of the state’s ongoing battle with COVID-19 (coronavirus), it will forego the high school spring sports seasons, which include baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse and track and field.

"It is with regret that the Maine Principals’ Association announces the cancellation of the 2020 spring athletic season," announced the MPA in a press release, signed by Executive Director Mike Burnham. "Please know that this was not a decision that was taken lightly, but one that the leadership at the MPA felt necessary to help support the recommendations from our governor’s office, the Maine [Centers for Disease Control], and [Education] Commissioner [Pender] Makin, and the department of education, that schools across the state not come back in session and provide remote and distance-learning opportunities for the remainder of the school year.

"We understand the importance that these athletic and performing arts programs play in the lives of students, their families, and their communities, but also recognize that these education-based activities are a part of the overall educational experience and at this time of uncertainty to adhere with the recommendations of staying at home, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding face-to-face instruction and large group gatherings, is crucial for us to persevere."

At this point, Regional School Unit 40, which includes Medomak Valley High School; RSU 13, which includes Oceanside High School; School Administrative District 28, which includes Camden Hills Regional High School; RSU 20, RSU 3, which includes Mount View High School in Thorndike; RSU 8, which includes Vinalhaven; and RSU 20, which includes Searsport District High School; and Islesboro Central School, have ruled out returning to school for the rest of the year.

That means those schools will continue with remote/distance learning and not return to the physical school buildings for the rest of the year.

As of Sunday, April 12, RSU 71, which includes Belfast Area High School; and RSU 7, which includes North Haven Community School, had not made a decision to close for the rest of the year.

Initially, the MPA, which governs all member high school varsity sports, pushed back the start of the spring sports season from Monday, March 30 to Monday, April 27 with the hope it would be able to complete, at least, a condensed version of its seasons.

However, the MPA’s announcement puts into action a plan “that is unprecedented in Maine sports history that I am aware of,” said Belfast athletic director Terry Kenniston.

That being the elimination of an entire season of high school sports.

“It's really unfortunate and I feel bad for the seniors who won't have this opportunity to compete one last time,” said Kenniston, who has been either a coach or school administrator 44 years. “Many have worked hard in their careers to get to this point. I'm sure it's not easy for the underclassmen as well, but they at least have more opportunities to compete before their high school days come to an end.”

Kenniston said, in many ways, it is as difficult for the coaches as “they were prepared, geared up and ready to go.”

"The day-to-day contact with their teams is something they look forward to and without this it leaves holes in their lives,” he said. “I have talked with friends and parents who are struggling as they want activity and see their kids play."

It also is a particularly displeasing way for Kenniston’s tenure as athletic director and assistant principal to end. Kenniston announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year in February.

Camden Hills athletic director Jeff Hart thanked his student-athletes, particularly the seniors, “for your commitment and dedication to your school and community.”

“It’s a sad, sad day for everyone involved in high school sports,” he said. “I feel bad for everyone, but especially those seniors who will miss their last opportunity to compete in the sport they love. For most kids, high school is the last chance to play organized sports. Most do not go on to play in college.”

"We want to recognize the efforts of the hard-working dedicated educators across the entire state as they provide distance-learning opportunities to students in Pre-K through 12th grade and to thank them for their work during this COVID-19 crisis," stated the MPA press release. "We also want to recognize the important role that coaches and advisors play in the lives of our young people and would encourage them to continue to reach out to their team members to provide the emotional support that so many students need during this time of uncertainty."

"Given the recent announcement by the DOE, this decision seemed imminent," said Medomak Valley athletic director Matt Lash. "During the last four weeks, many difficult decisions have been made that effect each of us in many aspects of life. It is all unprecedented and we have been trying to work through it the best we can. This news is devastating to everyone involved, but none more than the seniors. They have worked extremely hard and earned this final high school season."

Searsport athletic director Chris Hart said, "I think we knew it was a matter of time before the MPA would have to cancel the spring sports season.

"When it comes to this, you feel most for the students," he said. "For many of our students we understand the importance that athletics has on their lives and the lives of their families in the Stockton Springs and Searsport communities. We at [Regional School Unit] 20 appreciate the work of Mike Burnham and all members of the MPA executive office. We know this was a hard decision, but in the midst of this pandemic, we know this was a decision that had to be made."

"I am extremely disappointed to say the least," said Mount View athletic director Tom Lynch. "I feel so bad for our student-athletes, coaches, parents and all the fans. Mostly though my heart aches for the seniors who have seen their last chance to put on the Mount View uniform and compete taken away. Anyone whoever played remembers their last game, season, or play they made. They remember their best time or distance. They remember the coaches, teammates, hugs from parents and the good times. However, this is a life-and-death situation we are talking about which puts it in a little different perspective."