After a long wait, a final decision on high school fall sports — as well as COVID-19 safety guidelines for student-athletes and coaches — has been reached.

In a joint statement released Thursday, Sept. 10 by the Maine Principals’ Association, the Maine School Superintendents Association and the Mills Administration, it was announced that the revised “School Sports Guidance: Return to Competition for Competitive Athletics and Activities in Maine” document is now in compliance, with the go-ahead given for schools to begin fall sports.

However, not all sports will take place this fall.

Soccer, field hockey, golf and cross country will go forward, while football and volleyball, categorized as higher risk sports in relation to possibly spreading or contracting coronavirus, will not be played.

Those seasons will be shortened in length, which was determined on July 21 when the start of the season originally was pushed back from Aug. 24 to Sept. 8.

Click on the link below for latest School Sports Guidance: Return to Competition for Competitive Athletics and Activities in Maine,

The start of the fall sports season has already been delayed multiple times since mid-summer.

The MPA, along with multiple state agencies and organizations, have since attempted to hammer out a set of guidelines to allow some semblance of fall sports to be played in a safe manner.

Now, it seems, those guidelines have been set, though the new guidelines will proceed to a vote by the MPA’s Sports Medicine Committee followed by its Interscholastic Management Committee for final approval, which, at this juncture, barring any unforeseen circumstances, can be seen as a mere formality with the amount of work that has gone into the document.

“While we remain concerned about the dangers of COVID-19, we believe it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the state that efforts be made to return to physical activity and athletic competition where that can occur in a reasonably safe environment," the release stated.

The document, which is “meant to decrease potential exposure of COVID-19 in sports and activities to a degree that competition, at both the community level and the school-based level, can occur when safe.”

“As we continue to gain more information, this guidance may be adjusted or even suspended to adapt to an ever-changing environment.”

The document stressed that “strict adherence by schools and teams to these guidelines, and to each district’s COVID-19 prevention plan, should provide a reasonably safe environment for return to educational and school-based athletics and community-based events.”

The beginning of the fall sports season and tryouts for all sports will begin Monday, Sept. 14, with the first countable games to be played on Friday, Sept. 25.

Among the notable changes are no indoor practices, all athletes (excluding those actively participating in said games/events), coaches, staff, officials and fans must wear masks and crowd sizes may not exceed 100 people.

Of course, the onus now shifts to local school districts as to whether they will allow their schools to participate in MPA-sponsored athletics.

Camden Hills Regional High School, North Haven Community School and Vinalhaven School are among a handful of schools statewide that have already decided to opt out of the season.

It is possible, regardless of Thursday's MPA decision, that other schools may opt out if they cannot deal with proposed safety guidelines, or do not want to put their general school population, including non-sports students and teachers, at risk.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.