High School sports could once again begin sooner than anticipated after the Maryland State Board of Education voted Monday to move up the possible start date of the winter sports season by nearly two months.
Under the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's second-semester plan, which was adopted by Frederick County Public Schools and most school systems around the state, preparation for a five-week winter sports season was set to begin Feb. 1.
But the state board's vote on Monday moves that date up to Dec. 7, eliminates the overlap between the winter, fall and spring seasons that exists under the two-semester plan and adds roughly a week to the windows available for preparation and competition.
"I think it is great and we can make it work," Frederick County Board of Education President Brad Young said about the plan in a phone interview Monday, speaking only for himself and not the rest of the board.
Young said he was going to speak with the rest of his board members and get the issue on the agenda for potential approval at one of the upcoming meetings on Nov. 11 or Nov. 23.
Previously, the Frederick County board voted down a proposal put forth by Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon that would have started the fall sports season on Oct. 7 with competitions beginning on Oct. 27. Most other school systems in the state did the same with the exception of the three western-most counties: Garrett, Allegany and Washington, which are set to begin competitions Tuesday.
A number of private schools around the state, including Saint John's Catholic Prep in Buckeystown, have also chosen to begin their fall sports seasons this week.
Frederick County Public Schools previously expressed hope for the option of an earlier start date than the MPSSAA's two-semester plan, mainly to avoid overlaps between the seasons. But FCPS has yet to fully commit to the earlier starting date for sports if approved by the board.
"We are going to be examining the Dec. 7 option," FCPS supervisor of athletics and extracurricular activities Kevin Kendro said. "It's an option we were hoping to have, and we are going to continue the work of the Return to Play committee."
Under the Dec. 7 proposal approved by the state board, all seasons would expand from five to six weeks, and there would be roughly a week of preparation time tacked onto the beginning of the season.
"That's not a small thing as the kids get ready to play," Kendro said.
It remains unclear if there would be any playoffs or state championships, even though the seasons would no longer overlap.
With the Dec. 7 start date, competitions for the winter season — basketball, wrestling, indoor track and field and swimming and diving — can begin Jan. 4 and will end Feb. 13.
Then, the fall season — football, soccer, volleyball, golf, cross country, field hockey — will run from Feb. 13 to April 17 with roughly a month of ramp-up before competitions begin.
The spring season — baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, outdoor track and field — will take place from April 17 to June 19. That's the same ending date as the second-semester plan.
Under guidance from the Return to Play Committee, FCPS allowed voluntary, non-contact conditioning and skills-based workouts to occur over the summer and into the school year.
Fall-sports athletes participated from Aug. 31 to Sept. 25. Spring-sports athletes began their workouts on Sept. 28 and concluded last Friday.
Winter-sports athletes were scheduled to begin voluntary workouts Monday and conclude Nov. 20.
"Our main focus remains getting kids back into competition," Kendro said.