FCPS delays start of winter sports competitions

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In collaboration with the Frederick County Health Department, and as recommended by the Return to Play subcommittee and approved by leadership, FCPS is delaying the start of winter sport competitions. Basketball, cheerleading, indoor track and field, swimming and diving, Unified Bocce and wrestling will now begin competitions on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, two weeks later than the original January 4, 2021, starting date. The winter competition season will be reduced from six weeks to four weeks.

FCPS has approached the Return to Play with an abundance of caution. A subcommittee comprised of representation from the FCHD, local medical professionals and FCPS personnel evaluates multiple factors each week to make recommendations on how to best mitigate COVID-19 transmission and create a safe environment for student athletes and coaches. The subcommittee reviews data related to the community health conditions, school-based health conditions and the latest guidance from nationally recognized health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The FCPS commitment for student athletes returning to play is grounded in social and emotional wellness benefits. Participation in high school athletics leads to increased ability to handle and manage stress, improved health habits and a sense of belonging with their school and team. The loss of these activities has been challenging and emotionally draining for many of our student athletes. Our commitment is founded on addressing the social and emotional needs of student athletes in the same way that we are addressing these needs for all students during the school day.

FCPS will continue to closely monitor and progressively increase competitive activities over the next three weeks to be prepared for winter competitions to start on January 19, 2021. Teams will remain in skill-based practice settings with minimal intrasquad competition exercises over winter break and during the week of January 4, 2021. Teams will then transition to regular practice activities and intrasquad competition during the week of January 11. Winter competitions will begin January 19 after one full week of regular practices.

In order to provide the best opportunity for our student-athletes to begin competing and to increase the chance the season will be able to continue, FCPS will be instituting additional COVID-19 mitigation strategies for competitions. These strategies are recommended by the Return to Play subcommittee and approved by FCPS leadership.

FCPS will begin the winter season with no spectators in attendance at athletic competitions. Schools will livestream events. The topic of “spectators” will continue to be discussed during the RTP subcommittee weekly meetings.

Face coverings will be worn by basketball players and cheerleaders during basketball games as well as by students competing in Unified Bocce matches. With the exception of swimmers and divers in water, student-athletes in all other winter sports will wear masks during inside practices, when not socially distanced outside, and on the sidelines/bench area during competitions. All officials and game management staff will be required to wear face coverings.