Two independent secondary schools on the coast will get some relief from COVID-19 regarding the reclassification of sports over the next two years in response to the impact of the pandemic on their enrollment.
The Washington Academy of East Machias will move from Class B to Class C in various sports in the academic years 2021-22 and 2022-23, while the George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill will remain in Class C for men’s and women’s basketball.
The final reclassification of all sports teams sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association for those academic years has been approved by the general members of that organization.
The Washington Academy of East Machias was originally set to remain in Class B in baseball, softball, tennis, cross country and golf based on its April 1, 2020, enrollment of 392. The enrollment limit established between classes B and C for these sports it is 379.
The GSA’s enrollment of 326 on April 1, 2020 was just above the minimum of 325 in Class B basketball. That would have moved Class C Eagles in that sport.
But Washington Academy enrollments fell from 392 in April 2020 to 327 on October 1, a 17 percent reduction, while George Stevens’ enrollments fell from 326 to 304 (7 percent) during the same period.
Washington Academy school principal Judson McBrine said the significant drop in enrollment at his school resulted from a reduction of more than 50 percent in international students – from 51 last year to 25 this year. It also hosted a small group of freshmen because some families opted for classes at home or virtual classes through another medium, such as the Maine Virtual Academy.
After the MPA’s rating committee completed its recommendations for the next cycle in mid-March, WA and GSA sought exemptions due to reductions in their student populations since the start of the pandemic.
“When they were working on reclassification this year, I heard very early that they were considering the impact of COVID on school enrollment and how it would apply to grading,” said McBrine. “It would not necessarily be for municipal academies with international programs, but for any school.”
MPA’s inter-school management committee granted the exemptions, allowing the two schools to apply their October 2020 enrollment to the reclassification of their teams, said MPA assistant executive director Mike Bisson.
“These were the only two schools that applied for exemptions only because they were dramatically impacted by their inability to get foreign students,” he added.
Bisson said that an issue raised during the appeals process was what would happen if enrollment in these schools started to return to pre-pandemic levels during the next grading cycle.
“I think we would communicate with these two schools just to check and see what those numbers were like at that time,” he said, “but I don’t see that coming next year, anyway.”
In October 2020, enrollment of 327 at the Washington Academy, from 327, dropped shortly before allowing Raiders to move from Class B to Class C in basketball. Place the school in the 8-player football small school division, where the maximum enrollment is 354.
That is, as long as the MPA offers tackle football this fall, after canceling the sport in 2020 due to concerns about COVID-19.
For the first time this year, football teams will be able to play against a class and still be eligible to play in the postseason. The change was designed for security reasons and in an effort to preserve existing programs amid declining participation.
Schools that will downgrade a class if tackle football is reinstated include the Hampden Academy 11-player programs, Class B North to Class C North; Gardiner, B North to C South; Westbrook-Waynflete, B South to C South, and Freeport, John Bapst of Bangor and Poland, from Class C to Class D.
The Houlton-Hodgdon football program also filed a petition to play in the small schools in the 8-player division.
The Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield chose to move from Class D to Class C in football this fall, while moving from Class B to Class C in cross country, field hockey, golf, soccer, baseball, softball and tennis based on subscription.
Cony of Augusta will move from Class A to Class B in cross country, field hockey, golf, football, baseball, softball and tennis.
In basketball, Hampden Academy will move from Class A to Class AA. Other moves include Medomak Valley of Waldoboro from Class A North to Class B South, Oceanside of Rockland from B North to B South, Bucksport from C North to B North, Freeport from B South to A South and Leavitt from Turner Center and York from A South to South B.
Brewer’s indoor and outdoor athletic teams will move from Class B to Class A.