While the likelihood seemed a foregone conclusion, the decision became official shortly before Thanksgiving break of the fate of the Busline League middle school winter sports season.

According to an email from Busline League president Kathleen Peabody on Friday, Dec. 11, the decision was made Tuesday, Nov. 19 that, due to COVID-19 safety concerns, the Busline League would not participate in winter sports.

The Busline League includes athletic activities for middle school students spanning geographically as far south as Woolwich and north to Searsport, and the Penobscot Bay islands of Vinalhaven, North Haven and Islesboro.

Thus, the league, which sponsors basketball and cheering as winter sports, has now canceled the spring, fall and winter seasons in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“Busline is doing intramurals at the moment this winter at each individual school,” said Peabody, who is the athletic director at Jefferson Village School. “We had a Zoom meeting and made this decision based on what each school was getting for feedback from their [school] boards and principals.”

However, whether each school will hold intramurals or skills and drills remains to be seen as some school districts have yet to approve winter sports.

Oceanside is one school that opted for some level of intramural play.

Athletic director Molly Bishop Harriman said Oceanside Middle School "may do some intramural skills and drills" though "details [have yet] to be decided."

"We are exploring options," she said.

Troy Howard Middle School athletic director Alta Seekins said: “With indoor sports it's a numbers game, but we are making plans so that every student that wants to participate can.”

“We are waiting until after winter break to begin,” said Seekins. “We will follow all the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention], [Department of Education] and state guidelines and will keep our kids in the same grade level pods they travel in throughout the school day.”

“It has certainly been hard on our students,” said Camden-Rockport Middle School athletic director Matt Smith. “They love playing on sports teams and because we know movement is so important for mental and physical health.  Despite sadness at losing sports seasons, I think students have been understanding that there's a bigger picture to all of this and that sports have had to take a backseat to public health.  Students have been appreciative of anything we have been able to offer.”

Smith said the Schooners started basketball practices Monday, Dec. 14, but admits “It looks different.”

“Following CDC guidelines, students are keeping distance, wearing masks and only participating in skill-building drills, but they are pleased to get back in the gym,” he said. “Maybe we will get to some scrimmaging in January if CDC guidelines allow it.”

While Busline League team prepare for a season of strictly skills and drills and/or scrimmaging within their own school, other prepare for league play.

Searsport District Middle School athletic director Chris Hart said the Vikings will prepare to play organized basketball this winter.

Searsport, the northernmost school in the Busline League, will participate in the Penobscot Valley Middle School League, which includes school throughout the Downeast and greater Bangor regions.

“I would best describe it as a middle school version of the PVC [Penobscot Valley Conference], which will see us play opponents who are still regionalized, but will be a group of schools sitting to our north," Hart said.

Searsport plans for this to be a temporary move and remain a member of the Busline League.

Mount View Junior High School of Thorndike also will be in action on the hardwood this season as it is part of the Central Maine Middle School League.