Kim Howes was fuming.

"It's not fair," Howes said over the phone Wednesday evening, her voice more animated than usual after the Frederick County Board of Education voted unanimously to stay the course with the public school system's current second-semester plan for high school sports and reject Gov. Larry Hogan's call for them to begin later this month.

"For them to talk about how they know what's best for the kids, they don't have a clue," Howes said, referring to members of the board.

Howes, an Ijamsville resident, has been applying public pressure for months to allow Frederick County Public Schools' students to participate in sports, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact that most learning is occurring virtually right now.

Along with Walkersville resident Cathy McDonough, Howes started a Facebook group called "FCPS MD H.S. Parents Unite to Bring Back Fall Sports" that attracted more than 1,000 members.

Hogan appeared to give them some real hope when he announced, alongside State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon, that high school sports could resume with health protocols in place during a Sept. 24 visit to Frederick.

Under Hogan's plan, fall sports practices could have begun as early as Wednesday across the state with the aim of starting competitions Oct. 27. So far, only Washington, Garrett and Allegany counties had signed on to do it.

The Frederick County Board of Education shut down that possibility with a 7-0 vote Wednesday to accept the FCPS Return to Play committee's recommendation that the school system stay with the second-semester plan put forth by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

That plan calls for the the fall, winter and spring sports seasons to be played in three, five-week increments between February and mid-June.

FCPS supervisor of athletics and extracurricular activities Kevin Kendro said the school system would push to move-up the start date for the second-semester plan, which would allow each of the seasons to be extended without overlapping each other.

But that would require an approval from the State Board of Education that has not yet been granted. 

Kendro is hopeful that practices could begin in December with games and competitions to follow in January.

"We want to get our student-athletes back on the court as soon as possible," he said. "But safety is going to be our biggest priority."

Parents hoping for an earlier return of high school sports cited what is already happening in neighboring states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia and accused FCPS and the Board of Education of not doing enough to help facilitate their return.

"I think everyone should be able to make their own decisions when it comes to risk tolerance," said Anthony Masters, whose daughter, Lula, is a sophomore athlete at Urbana High School. "I am about allowing choice. Don't rule out everybody."

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 will conclude Oct. 23. Then, winter-sports athletes will get their chance from Oct. 26 to Nov. 20.

But even with strict health protocols in place, Kendro disclosed at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting that nine students and four coaches had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Additionally, four other coaches were exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms.

A total of 54 students and two coaches participating in Return to Play activities were forced to quarantine. Some workouts had to be shut down due to concerns of an outbreak, and one spring sports team had to delay the start of its workouts due to an outbreak on a club-sports team.

"Our commitment to safety to all athletic stake holders drove all of our decision-making," Kendro said. "Safety was always going to be our top priority. Nothing has really changed that."

Some parents were willing to sign liability waivers to allow their kids to participate in high school sports and pitch in to help kids who didn't have their own rides to games and practices.

"It feels like they are taking the easy way out," Howes said, referencing FCPS and the Board of Education. "They don't want to do the work to make [high school sports] work."

Howes' son, Kyle, was supposed to be entering his fourth season as the starting quarterback for Urbana High School's football team this fall. 

His previous play was good enough to attract the interest from five Division I colleges, Kim Howes said. But the interest has since dried up because there are no games due the pandemic.

She said her son has been playing football since he was 4 years old, and it is his dream to play the sport in college.

"I am not going to let them take everything away from my kid," Howes said. "This is his future they are stripping away from him."

Kendro pledged that FCPS coaches will still assist their athletes in securing college scholarships.

But, in lieu of there being no games at the moment, that wasn't good enough for some parents to hear.

Howes said she would be contacting an attorney and exploring any possible recourse to force the start of the season.

"If they feel like the fight is over, it's not," she said.

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek

(21) comments

vodalone

Outdoor sports aside from football are pretty safe, the danger in virus transmission is not during an active game but in locker rooms and activities after practice and games. I've been participating in adult outdoor sports on a regular basis since May and all the participants including myself are fine.

HappySeller2014

I have a few friends who are lawyers I can refer this person to if she wishes to sue. Beer drinking golf buddies of mine.

They will light a cigar, put her on retainer for $10K, and then milk her dry like the cows in the Urbana fields. After filings, motions, service, etc., they would easily need a supplement up to $20K.

Then, come next year, nothing would happen, they would ask for more money, and the kid would still be playing on Madden 2020. Case would eventually be dismissed without prejudice, since every kid everywhere was affected by this national health pandemic.

And poof, there would go a bunch of money that could have gone to the kid's college education or future needs. And poor Mom would feel, yet again, that something was taken away from her boy. About $20K or so.

NewMarketParent

@HappySeller2014

I am not a lawyer, but would like $20K. Where can I sign up?

HappySeller2014

This lady is a nut. Who is going to field large sports teams this school year? If programs open up, football, basketball and baseball teams will have less than a 25% participation rate, if that. You cannot field a football team with 9 kids trying to play both ways.

You can try to piledrive your position that your little Johnnie or Suzie should be playing sports right now in the middle of this pandemic, but you have to convince the rest of the community to let their little Peteys and Bettys to play too. Not gonna happen.

It has stopped amazing me how some parents want to put their precious little children above the good of our community. She was fuming? I bet. And, she looks like a wayward helicopter parent to most of Frederick County.

My two kids are excellent atheletes in a number of respective sports. And yes, possibly can take their skills to the next college level. Every year they crush Urbana sports teams. But, they understand this environment, want themselves and their teammates safe, and are handling this very well. I am extremely proud of my kids. Their perspective, and mine, is grounded and realistc.

I recommend this lady tell her soon to keep hitting the books hard. Every football playing kid in the state of MD, and many throughout the US, are in the same recruiting spot now. So, suck it up buttercup and teach your child strength comes from adversity.

A calm sea never produced a skilled sailor. Fuming parents are a disservice to their families ad children in the midst of a public health crisis.

dtwigg

[thumbup][thumbup]

NewMarketParent

@HappySeller2014

^5 for raising good kids.

Also, we cannot let people "Karen" their way into piling up the bodies of our neighbors so that their kids can live their parent's dreams.

HappySeller2014

Thanks, NWP. Between the two of us, I think we clearly got the point across! [thumbup]

jp846123

If your son hasn’t verbally committed or signed going into his senior year, the interest has long dried up for any D1 program. Suggest he find a college that suits his educational desires and join the football team if they have one. No shame in D2 or D3.

NewMarketParent

@jp846123

Absolutely right! I attended and played for a D2 school and received an absolutely fantastic education.

D2 schools are a good educational bargain.

Hayduke2

As a matter of fact, I know of several who declined D1 offers to play for D3 schools. Seems they wanted a balance of sports and actually getting a meaningful degree without committing to the very demanding rigors of major D1 sports. They are very happy.

shiftless88

Heck, look at the path of current Jacksonville Jaguars starting Quarterback, Gardner Minshew II. Talent will be recognized.

Pshultz1

I do not believe their is a right or wrong decision made by the board- but i will say that i am amazed by their lack of knowledge in regards to the pandemic. I thought Jay Mason missed the mark when discussing athletics vs education. Athletics is part of a child’s education. They learn more life lessons on the field that will benefit them as they move forward. The talk of “ I am hearing” and “ I am told” about certain guidelines not being followed was at best a version of telephone. What have you seen and what did you do is what it should be.

Finally they discussed the amount of covid cases.. what the percentage of cases vs participants.

I believe that much of the frustration from parents and students with the board is that they continue to state they need more time..... they have had since March ( relation to school)

bpswp

So I guess your belief is that if a child doesn't participate in a sport, he/she misses out on important life lessons? Humbug!

wran

The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eaton. Lord Wellington

shiftless88

Athletics should be secondary to actual education.

tonis

Thank you, board members, for your prudent consideration and decision.

FrederickFan

This was a prudent decision and the right decision.

hmr2019

If Division I schools are lacking on recruiting, that’s on them, not the local school districts. True recruiting leadership would take into account the pandemic when looking at possible recruits. The health of my children is more important than sports. Catching COVID-19 can very quickly end a sports career, especially with its unknown long term effects on a persons health. Once lung tissue is destroyed, it is not coming back.

NewMarketParent

I get it that your son wants to get a scholarship, but not over a pile of bodies of my neighbors and countrymen.

Biker1

Absolutely right NewMarketParent!

Ijamsmike

Totally agree with your statement

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