As the outdoor temperatures rapidly dip, most sports aficionados turn their heads from the warmer climates of fall to the chilly — and often downright cold — conditions of winter.

And, toward the high school winter athletics seasons, which, given the ongoing affects of COVID-19, are sure to have a different look and feel — if there is a feel to them at all — in 2020-21.

With the spring season canceled due to coronavirus and the start of the fall season delayed — and significantly altered —the MPA announced on Tuesday, Oct. 27 the traditional start of the winter season will be pushed back.

Currently, the question as to whether students will play winter sports in the coming weeks is being asked at the local and state levels.

Maine Principals’ Association Executive Director Mike Burnham said Tuesday the organization that governs member schools' varsity sports is feverishly working with state agencies and the administration of Gov. Janet Mills to find a way to allow winter sports — which are mostly played indoors, as opposed to outdoors like the majority of fall sports — to happen.

Burnham said the MPA hopes to have a resolution by the end of the week and officials are “moving forward with the same school-based guidelines that were developed in the late summer/early fall, with a few revisions, as we prepare for the winter.”

“Hopefully, we can get past each one and be able to offer some type of winter sports season,” he said. "We have not arrived at a potential start date at this point, but rather want to make sure we have addressed the potential issues before determining a start date.”

Typically, the start of the winter athletic season is mid-November with tryouts for sports such as basketball, ice hockey, wrestling, swimming and indoor track and field. Skiing practices and meets usually start in December.

Statewide, 57 new cases were reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Oct. 27. That brought the total number of cases since the outbreak began to 6,311. There has been 247 new positive cases confirmed in a five-day period.

Additionally, Waldo County recently had its "green" designation shift to "yellow," which essentially halted high school fall sports at Belfast Area High School, Mount View High School of Thorndike and Searsport District High School, while it also forced the MPA to move conference and state championship cross-country meets, which were to be held at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

Medomak Valley High School  of Waldoboro and Union Elementary School also recently went to remote learning after two cases were reported, one of which was reported to have originated from a member of the boys soccer team.

Currently, there are hurdles to clear and “many questions that have been raised, with each stakeholder looking through their own lens," Burnham said.

“One question that has been raised, given that we were not able to sponsor volleyball as an indoor activity in the fall, would be, 'What has changed so that we can now sponsor indoor activities?' ’” said Burnham. “Many schools continue with a hybrid model of education with fewer students being in the building during the day and all being required to wear masks and maintain physical distancing.”

Currently, the state allows no more than 50 people for indoor gatherings and 100 for outdoor gatherings.

Allowing indoor practices without face masks is another issue, where Burnham said, “There is a concern that we are creating a double-standard by requiring students to wear face masks at all times during the school day, but would allow them to practice and play without them during afterschool activities.”

“The CDC has been steadfast in their feeling that face masks should not be worn during high-intensity physical activity [and] this is something that they are currently reviewing," he said.

Facility issues also are a concern as “many school gyms are currently being used as a classroom, study hall, cafeteria or storage area," Burnham said.

“It certainly isn’t a reasonable expectation for the custodians to move everything out of the gym at the end of the day to allow practices to occur,” he said. “Another facility concern is that many of our sports depend on facilities on college campuses or at a community facility and many of these facilities are not available at this time.”

Indoor track meets are held at college facilities in the state, such as Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Bates College in Lewiston, University of Southern Maine in Portland, University of Maine in Orono and Colby College in Waterville. Ice hockey also is held at college venues and independently-operated arenas.

Burnham said the MPA is aware many community-based sports programs continue to play games throughout the state, which “is an issue that sends mixed messages to our athletes and families.”

That said, Burnham added, “We do feel, based on the success of the fall, that schools can safely offer programs, and provide the necessary oversight, better than the outside groups.”

“We are grateful to be a part of the discussion and can hopefully find a way for a winter season to take place," he said.