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Howard County pushes back start to high school sports season by one month ahead of virtual-only semester

The start of the Howard County 2020 fall high school sports season for public schools has been delayed.
The start of the Howard County 2020 fall high school sports season for public schools has been delayed. (Matt Hazlett/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

No Howard County high school athletic programs will begin activities until at least Sept. 8.

The Howard County Public School System issued a statement Wednesday announcing that the start date for fall sports will now coincide with the beginning of virtual instruction, as opposed to the originally scheduled date of Aug. 12 to begin fall sports tryouts. The plan amid the coronavirus pandemic to teach students solely via online instruction for the first and second quarters of the 2020-21 school year was approved by the Howard County Board of Education on July 16.

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“In accordance with the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association MPSSAA Roadmap to Recovery for Interscholastic Athletics, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) established a Return to Play committee to assess opportunities for a return to athletic participation. This committee has connected regularly with the Howard County Health Department and MPSSAA to help guide our decision on whether athletics could safely be resumed this fall,” according to a news release. “MPSSAA or the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) have not yet announced any changes regarding the fall athletic season.”

School systems spokesperson Brian Bassett added, “It is important that families are able to plan ahead so this timeline adjustment will allow them to make decisions with the understanding that athletics are temporarily postponed until Sept. 8 with likely more guidance coming following decisions by the state.”

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While a timeline for further updates were not announced, the protocols that have been in place for high schools athletics in the county throughout the summer will remain the same.

“At this time, coaches may continue engaging with student-athletes through virtual meeting sessions to provide conditioning routines and drills and promote health and well-being. The HCPSS Return to Play committee will continue planning for reopening to be ready for Sept. 8 or when the state and school system determine that it is safe to do so,” according to the release. “Registration will be closed temporarily and the community will receive notice when registration reopens. Decisions regarding extracurricular activities for all levels are also under consideration.”

Howard County’s announcement comes on the heels of Baltimore County Public Schools Coordinator of Athletics Michael Sye announcing July 22 via email that BCPS is postponing athletics “while instruction is virtual and until it is safe to conduct all the various facets of organized team sports.” The Baltimore County Board of Education voted on July 21 to delay a return to school buildings until the semester ends on Jan. 29.

Prince George’s County announced on July 15 that it was canceling fall sports, while Montgomery County went a step further to announce the cancellation of fall and winter sports.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, two bodies that govern private schools throughout the area, announced earlier this month the decision to postpone fall practices to a start date of Sept. 1 or later.

Anne Arundel County said Friday it is delaying the start of the fall high school sports season as well.

Several other counties in the Baltimore area — including Carroll and Harford — had not announced official plans or updates regarding the fall sports season as of Wednesday morning.

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