ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Fall sports practices at Maryland public high schools can begin October 7, reversing an earlier decision stopping sports until the spring, Gov. Larry Hogan and Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced Thursday.

Golf competitions can begin on October 7, with other fall sports starting competitions October 27. Face coverings and social distancing guidelines must be enforced.

“Parents have really been strongly pushing to get the kids who need it the most back in class for face-to-face instruction,” Hogan said Thursday. “They’ve been really pushing to get some fall sports going. It’s been an overwhelming push to get this done.”

The October 7 date gives seven weeks of competition for fall sports, including cross country, field hockey, football, golf, soccer and volleyball.

The last date of play will be December 12, with the end of season competitions set to occur December 14-19. The state will also expand competition timeframes for all winter and spring sports.

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Winter sports will be able to begin practice on December 14, and spring sports can begin practice on January 4.

“The steps taken today are directly related to the needs of our students to be active and engaged with our physical, social and emotional wellbeing,” Salmon said.

Local school systems that choose not to exercise the October 7 option for fall sports may utilize the Second Semester Plan option. The governor emphasized that local jurisdictions and school boards can make their own decisions on sports resuming.

“Getting our kids back on the playing field and allowing youth sports to resume this fall is critical for the social and mental well-being of our students,” he said. “Now that all 24 jurisdictions have submitted plans to resume in-person instruction, allowing fall sports to begin next month marks another important step on our road to recovery.”

Salmon echoed those comments.

“High school sports and competition are deeply rooted in our families and communities. The steps we’re taking today are directly related to the needs of our students to be actively engaged for their physical, social and emotional well-being,” she said.

When asked about specific safety precautions, Salmon directed people to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s website.

She also said she has heard parents’ concerns “loud and clear.”

“The mentorship, camaraderie and daily structure with these experiences — and what they provide — not only supports our students’ academic success but also has a generational history of reaching many at-risk students with some of them struggling in their remote learning environment,” she told reporters.

The full timeline is as follows:

October 7 Option For Fall Sports

  • All school systems shall, as soon as possible, provide conditioning and training opportunities utilizing the current available options provided by the MPSSAA.
  • On October 7, 2020, all local school systems may choose to begin formal fall sport season practices in preparation for a competition season which will begin on October 27.  All practices and preparation must be in accordance with Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) required practice regulations, and all face covering and public health protocols established by the state and local health departments.
  • The state is expanding the seasonal competition timeframes as previously announced for all winter and spring sports within this plan.
  • The October 7 option provides for seven weeks of competition for fall sports—including cross country, field hockey, football, golf, soccer, and volleyball:
    • First available practice date: October 7, 2020
    • First available competition date: October 27, 2020 (Golf may resume competition on October 7, 2020.)
    • Last play date: December 12, 2020
    • Culminating event/tournament: December 14-19, 2020
  • With the October 7 option, winter sports can begin practice on December 14, and spring sports can begin practice on March 15. Additional details will be provided by MPSSAA.
  • Local school systems that choose not to exercise the October 7 option for fall sports may utilize the Second Semester Plan option as previously announced.

One of the parents who pushed for sports to return: Former Governor Robert Ehrlich.

“I see three-quarters of the country playing,” Ehrlich said. “I see a couple thousand high school football games have already been played around the country — some in states with worse numbers than ours — and no outbreak.”

Erlich’s son Josh is a quarterback at Broadneck High in Anne Arundel County.

“I see other high school teams playing, and it’s really frustrating for me right now,“ he said.

Governor Hogan also toured a school in Frederick County and urged more schools to reopen their classrooms to in-person instruction, citing the state’s lowest positivity rate since March.

Also Thursday, the teachers’ union in Anne Arundel County criticized the school board and superintendent there for how they are handling the school district’s reopening plans.

They cite safety concerns including poor ventilation. The union also said the superintendent has not communicated clearly with teachers in the system.

The Anne Arundel County superintendent denies that and said teachers have always been a part of reopening discussions.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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