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Baltimore City postpones start of public high school winter sports season due to coronavirus concerns

Baltimore City on Monday became the latest public school district to postpone the start of in-person athletics because of coronavirus concerns. The announcement came the same day the high school winter sports season was scheduled to begin.

Baltimore City Public Schools wrote that the decision was made after discussions with the city’s health department and examining the potential risks of in-person athletics amid the pandemic.

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“While the district is eager to see our student-athletes return to play as soon as possible, our priority is to protect their health and safety,” the statement reads.

Maryland reported 2,302 new coronavirus cases Monday and 20 more deaths tied to COVID-19. The state has reported 1,000 or more cases for 34 straight days. In Baltimore City, there have been 3,487 confirmed cases over the past two weeks, and the city’s rate of 5.88 cases per every 1,000 residents is the highest in the Baltimore area.

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The Maryland State Board of Education on Oct. 26 approved a Dec. 7 start date for high school sports. Under the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association plan, practices for the winter season were to begin Monday with competitions set to start Jan. 4 and end Feb. 13. Fall sports will begin Feb. 13 and conclude April 17. Spring sports will begin April 17 and run to June 19.

Public school systems in Anne Arundel and Howard counties announced last week that they won’t begin the high school sports season on time. Anne Arundel will start its winter season virtually and will not switch to in-person activities until coronavirus case numbers come down, while Howard postponed the start of the winter season until Jan. 4 at the earliest. Both cited rising coronavirus numbers in their county over the past few weeks.

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have also decided to delay an in-person return. The state’s largest school district, Montgomery County, announced Friday that Jan. 12 is the earliest high school sports will return. Prince George’s has not announced a return date.

Some sports in the Baltimore region will go on as planned, however. Carroll County Board of Education members last week voted unanimously to start practices Dec. 14, with health and safety restrictions. That would give Carroll the option to start basketball games and wrestling matches the first week of January. Frederick County, meanwhile, began winter sports tryouts on schedule Monday.

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Three Maryland counties — Garrett, Allegany and Washington — opted to begin play in October but have since postponed competition.

BCPS did not provide a start date but in its statement stressed the importance athletics have on the “social and emotional well-being and academic success” of student-athletes.

“We will continue to work with our school-based athletic departments and community partners to support on-going virtual engagement with student-athletes and coaches by promoting a sense of community, positive character, sportsmanship, leadership, citizenship, and academic excellence,” the statement reads.

The MPSSAA on Aug. 3 officially postponed the fall and winter seasons because of coronavirus concerns. That decision came after the 2020 spring season was canceled April 28.

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