CAMDEN — They had one message they wanted the community, their high school principal and superintendent, and the Five Town CSD Board of Directors to hear: “Let us play!”
Approximately 75 high school students and parents gathered on the Camden Village Green to let the community know that they want to play competitive team sports with other school teams around the state.
CHRHS students learned earlier this month the district would not be participating in the Maine Principals’ Association schedule of fall games and playoffs.
Camden Hills Regional High School, in Rockport, became the first, and so far only, high school in the state to opt out of the upcoming fall sports season Aug. 21 in favor of participating in practices and modified intra-squad games this fall.
Wednesday evening, Sept. 2, the players and parents hope to change the mind of the school board at a regularly scheduled board meeting, which will be held via Zoom.
An Aug. 21 joint letter from Five Town CSD Superintendent Maria Libby, CHRHS Principal Shawn Carlson and CHRHS Athletic Director Jeff Hart said the administration reached a point where it could no longer wait for a decision from state officials.
“We feel the path forward is very clear and apparent,” the letter stated. “We have come to the disappointing conclusion that there is no way to adequately minimize the risks of mixing our student population with other school populations in thinking about league competition.”
The MPA later issued its decision Aug. 27, voting unanimously for fall sports to be played with some revised guidelines to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
Those rallying to play at CHRHS are hoping their school board will change its decision and follow the MPA protocol, and circluated a petition calling for school officials to change its minds.
“We, the taxpaying citizens of the Five Towns School district with student athletes that have endured pain and anguish through various social limitations due to valid public health concerns, seek a reversal of course to allow these kids to partake in the sport of their choice following the recommended health guidelines that have been determined to make it safe and healthy for our youth to have the deserved opportunity to compete at the highest level they seek in representation of their school, community, and family,” the petition said.
As of publishing time early Friday evening, the petition, addressed to Libby and the school administration, has received nearly 400 signatures, and organizers of the effort have requested the topic be discussed by the Five Town CSD school board at the board’s Sept. 2 meeting.
By Monday evening, the petition had grown to more than 650 supporters.
Though the MPA and two of its committees have backed a fall sports season, the Mills administration will review the guidelines before the decision to play fall sports is considered to be fully approved and be able to provide any input they wish to provide.
Leaders of the Maine Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Maine CDC have previously said its agencies would leave decisions regarding whether the fall sports season should be played in the hands of the MPA. The Office of Governor Janet Mills has deflected on its stance, referring inquiries on the subject of fall sports to the aforementioned government agencies.
On top of a review of guidelines by the Mills administration, MPA leaders say each school district reserves the right, as far as the MPA is concerned, to make their own decisions and can withdraw all or some of their athletic teams from participating in interscholastic contests this fall.