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RSU 13 gives green light to high school fall sports

By Stephen Betts | Sep 15, 2020
RSU 13 board meeting on Sept. 15.

Rockland — Oceanside High School's soccer, field hockey, golf, cross country, flag football, and cheering teams will play a limited schedule this fall, the Rockland area school board agreed Tuesday evening.

The Regional School Unit 13 Board approved the administration's plan at a Sept. 15 meeting. The plan came after the state gave school districts approval to offer some sports this fall despite outbreaks of COVID-19.

Middle school teams will not be competing against other teams but unspecified intramural competition will be offered for students.

And spectators will not be allowed at high school games, both home and away.

RSU 13 Superintendent John McDonald and Athletic Director Molly Bishop outlined the plans.

Bishop said seven-person flag football will be offered and this team would play games against Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, and Belfast Area High School. Soccer and field hockey would also play games with Belfast and Lincoln Academy.

There was unanimous agreement by the eight board members participating in the online meeting to allow golf, cross country, and cheering. But the members were divided on soccer, field hockey, and flag football because of the close contact by players.

Board Chairman Loren Andrews urged members to support the administration's overall plan including soccer and flag football.

"We have to make decisions based on the best science. Outdoor sports are safe," Andrews said.

He also said the student athletes have been waiting a month to play and that they would be crushed to not be allowed to play, particularly the seniors.

Students have not been allowed to practice until a decision by the board was made.

Board member Gerald Weinand said that not allowing spectators was necessary.

"I have two boys on the Oceanside soccer team, and I will not be able to watch them play this year. It’s tough for me, but it is the right thing to do," Weinand said.

The sports season will last through the end of October.

The vote for soccer and football was 6-1 with board member Mark Lewis of Thomaston voting against and Carol Bachofner of Rockland abstaining. Lewis said he was concerned that traveling to other schools could pose a risk of spreading the virus that would threaten the in-person academic programs that are operating in the district.

RSU 13 began a hybrid program on Sept. 8 with students in school half the time and working remotely the other days.

Weinand of Rockland pointed out that there were only three active cases of COVID-19 in Knox County and few in Waldo County.

Bishop said the district may have to use two buses to carry the soccer teams to away games in order to adhere to physical distancing requirements.

The Board also voted narrowly 4-4, which passed because of weighted votes, to eliminate the waivers that parents were asked to sign to absolve the district of responsibility in the event of the spread of the virus from participation in the sport.

Board member Chelsea Avirett said she was opposed to parents being asked to sign away their rights.

Schools across the state closed March 13 to in-person education with remote learning offered until June.

(Correction: Oceanside will not be playing flag football with Camden Hills. That was a reporting error.)

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