Maine Principals’ Association releases winter guidelines for athletics, activities

Thu, 11/18/2021 - 4:15pm

    As we head into the 2021-2022 winter season the Maine Principals’ Association (MPA), the Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA), the Maine Athletic Administrators Association, the Maine Music Educators Association, the Maine School Boards Association, and the Maine Athletic Trainers Association offer the following recommendations for school-based extracurricular activities. 

    All agencies agree, according to a news release, that education-based activities, including music and performing arts programs, support students with their social, emotional, physical, and mental health and they play a key role in the community.

    “We will continue to seek the safest ways to make activities available for young people across the state,” the release stated. 

    The mission of the MPA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is to provide guidance to the MPA member schools concerning the health and safety of students participating in interscholastic sports and activities. Team sports and other group extracurricular activities can increase the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission for students, coaches, referees, and staff, especially during indoor and close contact team sports. We strongly recommend that all schools follow this unified guidance for extracurricular activities.

    “Please note this information is frequently changing given the nature of COVID-19,” the release stated.

    Guidance for sports, music, performing arts, & other school-based activities:

    Isolation is required for positive COVID cases.

    Anyone within six feet for 15-minutes or more within 24-hours of cumulative exposure, or any direct physical contact with a COVID-positive individual during the infectious period, both indoors and outdoors, is considered a close contact and must quarantine for 10 days if not vaccinated or participating in pooled testing.

    It is strongly recommended that school staff, and those students that are eligible, be vaccinated. Vaccination remains the most effective means to control the pandemic.

    Fully vaccinated individuals can refrain from quarantine if they are symptom free and do not become COVID-positive.

    Fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to a positive case should be tested 5-7 days after exposure, even if they are symptom free, and should wear a mask until they receive a negative result.

    Fully vaccinated individuals are encouraged to participate in pooled testing where that option is available.

    Unvaccinated close contact(s) should be tested as soon as possible and again 5-7 days after exposure if the first test is negative.

    Unvaccinated individuals who are close contacts must quarantine for 10-days and may not return earlier even with a negative test.

    It is strongly recommended that schools participate in the pooled testing program that is available through the State of Maine

    For unvaccinated students participating in co-curricular activities, including music, and performing arts, pooled testing is an important way to ensure that these activities continue even when identified as a close contact.

    Close contacts of an individual with COVID-19 from school-based activities, who are participating in pooled testing, may continue to participate in class, school sports, school music, and all school-based activities even though they must quarantine outside of school activities.

    If a positive pool is detected, all participants in that pool will be tested individually to identify positive individuals. An individual testing positive for COVID-19 should not participate in pooled testing for 90 days after the positive test.

    Unvaccinated close contacts who are not current participants in pooled testing, are required to quarantine from class and all school-based activities for 10 days and may not return earlier even with a negative test.

    Consistent and correct mask use when indoors.

    Masks are strongly recommended for all students and staff, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, in indoor settings.

    In general, people do not need to wear a mask when outdoors when not within six feet of other individuals.

    Masks are required when on school transportation.

    If a school consistently enforces universal mandatory masking for classroom exposures, students identified as close contacts from 3-6 foot exposure may only participate in the regular school day. They may not participate in after school activities, and they must quarantine for 10 days outside of class.

    Other CDC guidance:

    If people are feeling sick, they should stay home. All quarantine exceptions are voided if the close contact is symptomatic OR tests positive for COVID-19.

    Physical distance to the extent possible.

    Provide hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

    Continue to practice hand washing, respiratory etiquette (coughing and sneezing), proper cleaning and sanitizing.

    The MPA, and the MPA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, make the following recommendations for winter indoor sports:

    Each district should have an Emergency Action Plan in place that includes COVID-19 prevention and management strategies that align with federal, state, and local guidance. Districts may institute more restrictive measures.

    Athletes should continue to provide their own water jugs - limit hydration stations.

    Physical distance during pre-game conferences.

    Limit post-game handshake, high fives, fist bumps before, during, and after the game. Continue with good sportsmanship wave.

    Any return to play plan, after a positive case, should include a gradual and progressive return to physical exertion developed by the student’s primary care physician.

    Support staff (officials, trainers, game workers) will be assessed by school health officials individually based on their exposure to a positive case.

    Support the Maine Music Educators with their recommendations for a safe return music.

    Schools utilizing venues outside of their school must follow the restrictions in place by the venue. Outside venues follow local school-based guidelines that are in place when hosting school events.

    The Maine Principals’ Association will follow Maine CDC recommendations for MPA sponsored post-season play.