While Kent Island High’s football team began the early stages of practice this week, athletic director Dan Harding said helmets may not be issued.

STEVENSVILLE — High school student-athletes were scheduled to start practice in Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties on Monday, Oct. 19 — each breaking down the fall, winter and spring sports seasons in their own way — with the idea of beginning the winter playing season Feb. 1, 2021.

Some of those plans may need altering though, should Dr. Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools, announce the starting date for the winter sport season is being bumped up to Dec. 7.

“All the county superintendents are on board,” said Kent Island High Athletic Director Dan Harding, who is also Bayside Conference president. “Every supervisor, even from the three counties that opted into the (Oct. 7) date, are in favor of pushing the Feb. 1 date up to Dec. 7, and starting with winter sports then.

“I think everybody involved is OK with that,” Harding continued during a phone interview last Friday afternoon. “We would probably still keep reconditioning the athletes until Dec. 1 or whatever, but then it gives you just so many more playing opportunities for the three seasons if you move it up almost two months.”

Harding, who has been participating in weekly conference calls with supervisors throughout the state, made it clear though nothing is concrete.

“It is our belief that if she (Salmon) is going to do it, she’ll do it by the end of next week at the latest,” Harding said. “It’s very possible though that she doesn’t.

“The hope is that the state superintendent sees that many counties have gotten their athletes back in some form or fashion, or are getting ready to very soon like we are, and will reward that kind of work with the Dec. 7 date,” Harding said. “But I think if she doesn’t do it by the end of next week she’s not going to do it. I think at that point the Feb. 1 date is the one that’s in play.”

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association announced Sept. 11 a two-semester plan for the restart of high school athletics, with the winter season slated to start Feb. 1, 2021.

But on Sept. 24, Gov. Larry Hogan and Salmon announced school systems had the option of beginning fall sports practices on Oct. 7 and starting competition Oct. 27. Most school systems throughout the state opted to stick with the two-semester plan, partly because students had yet to return to the classroom.

High school students in Talbot County had the option of returning to the classroom Monday, Oct. 19, the same day spring practices began. Caroline County schools were also slated to begin spring practice this week, though high school students are not back in the classroom yet.

Queen Anne’s County schools began fall practices this week, though high school students don’t return to the classroom until Nov. 9. Kent Island and Queen Anne’s will run fall practices through Nov. 13, followed by spring (Nov. 16-Dec. 11) and winter (Dec. 14-Jan. 22). Kent County, which has not announced an exact date when its high school students will return, will follow a somewhat similar schedule, starting with fall (Oct. 19-Nov. 6), then spring (Nov. 9-Nov. 27) and winter (Nov. 30-Dec. 18).

Dorchester County already had freshmen back in the classroom and is set to have sophomores, juniors and seniors return Oct. 27. Cambridge-South Dorchester and North Dorchester have already begun their offseason schedule, with spring practices running from Oct. 13-30, followed by fall (Oct. 31-Nov. 17) and winter (Nov. 18-Dec. 5).

“I like the Dec. 7 (start) date,” Harding said. “I think in Queen Anne’s County we could have gone with Nov. 15, the normal start of winter sports. We would have been ready. The question then becomes, and I guess we’ll find out as fall kind of hits us here: is it safe to be inside?

“That’s why we started with fall sports in Queen Anne’s County,” Harding continued. “We wanted to do two things. We wanted to get our fall athletes, which mainly are all outside. We also wanted to test inside with volleyball. Right now, we’re going to be doing volleyball outside, the first couple of days I think, in hopes that we can come to a consensus with our local health officer and our superintendent on a way to get volleyball inside. That will help us then when we get to the winter sports in the middle of December.”

Harding said one of the more notable benefits for starting Dec. 7 is the overlap for seasons won’t be as great. The conference president also said postseason scenarios are being discussed.

“Hopefully, we get positive momentum with what’s going on now, and people feel good and everybody stays healthy and we just keep moving on in small increments,” Harding added.

Harding noted while football will be among the fall sports practicing at Kent Island, it’s possible helmets won’t be issued and that contact — if there is any — will likely be limited as a COVID-19 precaution.

Follow me on Twitter @Bill_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@stardem.com

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