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Mass. Fall Sports: Football Postponed, ‘Red' Districts Can't Play Under Proposal

The MIAA's board of directors will meet Wednesday to review the recommendations

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There wouldn't be any competitive school football, cheerleading or unified basketball in Massachusetts this autumn under a new proposal for fall sports guidelines and released Tuesday evening.

And districts located in communities designated by the state as high-risk, based on having more than 8 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents, must postpone their sports seasons, since they will be learning remotely at the start of the season, according to the long-awaited new guidelines.

The guidelines must be approved by board of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association and could change throughout the year, according to an announcement from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shared by the MIAA. The MIAA's board of directors will meet Wednesday to review the recommendations.

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The guidelines would allow low- and moderate-risk sports, like soccer, fall swimming and cross-country, to go ahead with their seasons this fall starting Sept. 18.

But football, cheerleading and unified basketball are classified by the state as high risk, so they can only hold practices, not take part in games, and the practices must follow established social distancing guidelines.

There are other high-risk sports under the state's classification set for winter and spring, like basketball, hockey and wrestling. Those will be evaluated based on coronavirus conditions closer to the start of their seasons, according to the draft schedule.

The Massachusetts community-based COVID-19 risk levels have been proposed as a way for school districts to determine if they should begin the year with remote learning or not.

The new guidelines would require districts in the highest risk level, red, to postpone their seasons and not hold practices. The proposal would also require any district that isn't in the red, but chose to keep high school students home, to have the sports season approved by its school committee.

Sports guidelines must be approved by board of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association and could change throughout the year, according to an announcement from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shared by the MIAA. The MIAA's board of directors will meet Wednesday to review the recommendations.

A timeline would be developed to determine when, relative to the start of the sports season, school districts will be judged to be red, high-risk communities, according to the guidelines.

"The health and safety of our school communities must remain the top priority, and we recognize that any plan for athletic opportunities must adapt to evolving public guidance," said the document, from MIAA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Thursday, Massachusetts added more guidance saying low-risk sports like tennis and swimming can engage in all levels of activity, but moderate and high-risk sports, including basketball and football, must be modified to engaged in practices, competitions and tournaments.

Massachusetts on Monday released new guidance on what youth and adult amateur sports activities will be allowed in this phase of the state's reopening plan. The MIAA had been in wait-and-see mode for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidance.

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