The schedules are still being determined, but for Howard County private school institutions Chapelgate Christian Academy and Glenelg Country School, the goal is to have high school varsity competitions return by the end of the month.
Corresponding with the official announcement Monday by the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) that its member schools will be permitted to move forward with an open schedule this fall, officials from both Chapelgate and Glenelg Country confirmed they will immediately begin preparations for competition for all its fall programs.
“From my end and from the standpoint of our coaches, it’s incredibly exciting to see the kids getting the chance to get out and start doing things together as a group again,” Glenelg Country Athletic Director Paul Weir said. "It’s something we have been looking forward to for a couple months now, and it’s huge for our school community. But at the same time, we are going to make sure we take all the steps to do this properly.
“We are going to be ‘making hay’ slowly.”
Chapelgate Director of Athletics Ken Krabitz said that, with the Yellowjackets' fall sports programs already getting together for workouts two times a week since August, their return to competition timetable may actually be quicker than most.
“The fact that we’ve been out consistently now since before school started, it’s really not going to be as hard of a transition for us. We’ve got most of the safety protocols in place and our athletes aren’t going to need an extended [ramp-up] period,” Krabitz said. “Assuming we can work out the scheduling logistics, I can see us getting back to games as early as next week. We’ve been in talks for awhile with several schools that are ready and champing at the bit to get back as quickly as we are.”
Glenelg Country, which geographically makes sense as a scheduling match with Chapelgate, is among those that may need an extra week or two before returning to competition. The Dragons' teams just returned to campus last week for modified training, and Weir expects it to be a couple weeks before everyone is ready for competition.
“I think the biggest thing is not rushing the process in a way that is going to jeopardize the health and safety of our student athletes,” Weir said. “And, through this process, we are really asking that our community remains patient in an effort to avoid frustration as we do what is necessary to get this off the ground. We’re thrilled that we should be able to get some games in for the kids this fall, but it’s not something we are going to rush back into at the expense of doing it the right way.”
Krabitz added that it’s important to recognize every program around the state is dealing with different circumstances in relation to a return to play — ranging from space considerations to facility availability to transportation.
“There’s no playbook for this, so as everyone moves forward it’s important to understand that no two programs are exactly the same and there may be circumstances that arise that affect some schools more than others,” Krabitz said. “I think that was the whole idea behind the open schedule. It allows everyone to move at a pace that works for them.”
While many Maryland private schools have publicly announced the intention to return to play this fall, including likely playing partners for the Howard County schools such as Annapolis Area Christian, Gerstell and St. John’s Catholic Prep, there are others that will not immediately be returning to the fields and courts. McDonogh School and St. Frances Academy are among those athletic programs who have decided to not participate in athletics until 2021.
Chapelgate offers five fall sports — girls volleyball, girls and boys soccer and girls and boys cross country. The current plan is to begin games as soon as a schedule can be put together based on opponent availability and then to fall into a consistent schedule of one game or meet per week for each team, with no more than one team playing per day throughout the week. That schedule will continue through the week before Thanksgiving, according to Krabitz.
Wednesday is likely to be a nonplay day for Chapelgate based around the current academic schedule.
Krabitz added that any schedule will have to be flexible.
“There’s going to some trial and error, especially if we are among those first schools to get going. It could end up being a situation where everyone around the state will be looking at us, along with anyone else starting right away, to see how it goes and adjusting from there,” he said.
Glenelg Country offers seven fall sports programs at the high school level, including boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, field hockey, volleyball and girls tennis.
All Dragons' teams are expected to move forward with competition, although volleyball is currently operating under a modified practice format with activities taking place on outdoor courts. Conversely, Chapelgate is currently practicing volleyball indoors with several safety protocols, including the wearing of masks, in place.
Weir said Glenelg Country is scheduled to shift to a hybrid learning format on Oct. 26 and the viability of moving volleyball back indoors will be reevaluated at that point.
Over the coming days, Weir and Krabitz said that, in addition to piecing together schedule opportunities, they will also be ironing out details in relation to how teams will get to and from games along with the process of getting officials assigned to contests.