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Baltimore County athletes could return with winter sports in early December

There are no in-person fall sports for Baltimore County high school athletes this fall, but winter sports could be on the horizon in early December.
There are no in-person fall sports for Baltimore County high school athletes this fall, but winter sports could be on the horizon in early December. (Jen Rynda/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

It’s not official yet, but Baltimore County public school athletes may be getting closer to the starting line for in-person workouts and earlier starts for the winter, fall and spring seasons.

On Tuesday night, at a virtual Baltimore County Board of Education meeting, a proposal was made for the first practice for winter sports to be moved up to Dec. 7, with Jan. 4 being the first play date for games. The last day of the winter sports season would be Feb. 13.

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The fall season would run February through April and the spring season would run April through June.

The proposal needs to be approved by Karen B. Salmon, the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, and the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

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Currently, Baltimore County is operating under the original two-semester proposal for winter, fall and spring high school sports competition that would have sports returning Feb. 1 and running through June 19. Winter sports would run through March 27; the fall season, March 15 through May 8; and the spring season, April 26 through June 19.

Each season would begin with a 20-day preseason and have five weeks of interscholastic athletic competition available.

In a news conference, along with Gov. Larry Hogan on Sept. 24, Salmon said high school sports could return as soon as Oct. 7 with competitions allowed to begin Oct. 27.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Russell T. Kuehn addressed that date for in-person connections with fall athletes who are currently training and learning in virtual settings.

“Based on what the governor said and the state superintendent, they discussed Oct. 7 as the first day that high schools in Maryland could have practice, so that was about a week ago and there is no practice under way,” he said.

Kuehn asked the panel: “What is the deadline for the decision on in-person fall training because we are rapidly losing time?”

Darryl, L. Williams, Superintendent of Baltimore County Schools responded: “The Return to Play Committee is looking at some possibilities, but what we do know, obviously Baltimore County and other districts of the school systems were not prepared to meet that Oct. 7 date.”

The original second-semester plan, with games starting in February, would have seasons overlapping each other.

“Based on the feedback of the Maryland school systems, specifically our athletic supervisor and talking with our athletic directors, there was a second proposal made about looking at the window to begin earlier, instead of January, to begin in December, and to continue what we have in place now with the fall virtual coaching and engagement programs,” Williams said.

Obtaining information and feedback from the health department, athletic directors, coaches and administrators is ongoing.

Mike Sye, Baltimore County Supervisor of Athletics, is absorbing the daily changes caused by COVID-19.

“I think we are moving in the right direction. There are a lot of stake holders that are involved that have a lot of input in terms of the return of athletics,” said Sye, who is on the Return to Play Committee. “We are just taking it step by step and making sure we get all the information to make the best decision we can. The toughest part is that the information is always changing.”

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Seeing youth and club teams playing soccer, lacrosse, baseball and other sports doesn’t make seeing the county athletes idle any easier.

“I think that’s the toughest part, people are seeing that, but the school system has a large responsibility for the health and safety of the kids,” Sye said.

Sye realizes that other counties are going through the same difficult decisions.

“We are all kind of updated because their metrics change and their input changes, so while we try to be in alignment with each other, every area is going through it differently,” Sye said. “We are all just trying to work together, but again trying to work with the rules of our own separate counties.”

As of Wednesday, the original plan for competition is still Feb. 1.

“Our focus right now is returning Feb. 1 and then we are looking at other alternatives to get our kids up and running,” Sye said. “If we can ever get to the point where we can bring kids in, that would be a great thing too.”

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