Regional School Unit 71’s Board of Directors voted Sept. 14 at a special meeting to approve a modified competition schedule for fall high school sports. It puts the district in compliance with state mandates because of the coronavirus.

Maine Principals Association, Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Maine Center for Disease and Prevention Control released a joint initiative for fall high school sports that places each sport under one of three categories. It mirrors the categories used to determine school reopening plans throughout the state.

The green category means a sport can be played against schools statewide; golf and cross country fall in this category because of the lack of physical contact against competitors. The yellow category means a sport can only be played against schools in neighboring districts and counties; field hockey and soccer fall under this plan.

A 10-game schedule, with a possible 11th scrimmage game, of yellow category sports competitions will be decided later this week as local districts vote on their own fall sports plans.

The red category means a sport can be played only against students within a school; football and wrestling fall within this category because of the level of physical contact among players in the sport.

The district is looking to create four touch football teams with seven students per team for students within the high school to compete against each other in place of a traditional football season. The Principals Association postponed the football season, leaving open an option to host it in the spring.

Board member Caitlin Hills was hesitant to encourage the spring season idea because she did not want to give students “false hope.” Other board members were concerned that if football were to be played in the spring, other sports like track and baseball would be competing for students who usually participate in fall football and spring sports.

There will be a reduced number of spectators allowed at competitions to accommodate the state’s 50-person indoor and 100-person outdoor crowd cap mandate. Board member Jessica Woods said she thinks people will still be able to cheer and watch competitions on television or outside stadiums and fields.

Superintendent Mary Alice McLean said students have been practicing for weeks and have complied with all state and school required coronavirus rules and mandates. The school will promote the use of private transportation to competitions, where it is available, to reduce the number of students being bused.

If one of the school’s teams goes to a competition where coronavirus precautions are not being followed by other schools, then the policy is to leave immediately, McLean said. If RSU 71 schools cannot comply with coronavirus precautions, for whatever reason, then it will cancel the sporting event in question.

The high school is still keeping coaches at full capacity. Belfast Area High School Athletic Director Matt Battani said the over 40 school coaches are optimistic about the board’s decision and focused on making the most of the fall sports season.

“Coaches are excited this morning,” he said in an email Tuesday. “The buzz is positive and it is nice to have more concrete conversations with kids about sports than we have had the last couple of months.”