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Deer Isle & Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 7, 2021
Mariners to play first basketball game on Jan. 18
School board approves interscholastic games

by Leslie Landrigan

Mariners basketball will return to the Deer Isle-Stonington High School gym on January 18, when the girls take on Bucksport at 5 p.m. Varsity and junior varsity boys will then play Bucksport the next day.

There won’t be any spectators in the stands due to pandemic restrictions, and the athletes will wear masks while playing, according to Betsy Woodward, high school athletic director. But the games will be livestreamed under the direction of John Lincoln, Reach Performing Arts Center’s director, Woodward said in a phone interview.

Basketball got the go-ahead on January 5, when the Community School District board revisited its decision last year to allow interscholastic sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have no new information that says there should be a change,” Superintendent Chris Elkington said.

Board Member Bill Shepard expressed some reservations about interscholastic play, but he didn’t move to change the policy. “My concern is when they cross lines and teams from other schools come in—is that going to be an issue?” he said. The board didn’t take a vote on the matter.

Playing with masks

The student athletes began normal practice—that is, without social distancing—on January 4, Woodward told the board. They did complain about wearing masks, which hindered their performance, she said.

Woodward also said athletic directors tell each other if they have a COVID-19 case in their school, so a decision can be made about canceling a game. Last year, a soccer game with Searsport was canceled because the state designated Waldo County yellow, indicating an elevated risk of a COVID-19 outbreak, she said.

Woodward and Dennis Duquette, high school principal, agreed to clean and sanitize the gym after games if custodial help wasn’t available. Deer Isle-Stonington boys and girls are scheduled to play Searsport three times and Machias once. They’ll play Bucksport, Shead and Sumner twice. There will be no games with George Stevens Academy, which canceled winter sports. The season ends on February 25, and no tournaments will be held because of the pandemic.

Remote learning

The school board had also planned in December to decide on January 5 whether to require remote learning for students playing interscholastic sports. The students, they thought, would be intermingling with people from other schools, which could cause an outbreak of COVID-19. Board chair Jane Osborne said she’d changed her mind because athletics were so important for keeping some students connected to the school.

“I would hate to do something that would make kids less connected to school,” Osborne said.

Shepard has dissented from the board on allowing sports during the pandemic, but he agreed in this case.

“These kids are hanging on by a thread academically,” Shepard said.

The board agreed unanimously not to require student athletes to learn remotely.