Basketball season postponed, but still planned for Valley Unified schools

ST. JOHN VALLEY, Maine — High school basketball will get off to a late start for Valley Unified Education Service Center athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The basketball season will also be shortened for the Valley Unified high schools — Fort Kent, Wisdom and Madawaska. 

The Aroostook high school basketball season tipped off Monday, Jan. 11, for most County teams. While other Aroostook County teams are scheduled to play 12 games, the Valley Unified schools will participate in eight games, due to their shortened season. 

The Valley Unified partners, SAD 27, SAD 33, and Madawaska School Department, all moved to a remote learning model before the 2020 Christmas break. Students in SAD 27, which includes Fort Kent Community High School, switched to a remote learning model on Tuesday, Dec. 8, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a local business.

SAD 33 students, which includes Wisdom High School, moved to the remote learning model Thursday, Dec. 17, also in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 at a business in that area.

Madawaska School Department students, which includes Madawaska High School changed to remote learning on Friday, Dec. 18, after two people at Madawaska Elementary School tested positive for COVID-19.

Valley Unified schools are engaged in a remote learning model until Tuesday, Jan. 19, when they will move to a temporary hybrid learning model. 

Wisdom guard Abigail Lerman looks for her next move during the Class D North girls basketball quarterfinals at Cross Insurance Center on Feb. 17, 2020. (Natalie Williams | BDN)

Fort Kent Community High School varsity boys basketball coach Chad Cyr said he is eager for his team to begin practicing for the season, which they hope to do in a hybrid form beginning next week, when the hybrid learning model begins. 

Full team practices for the Fort Kent boys are tentatively slated to begin Monday, Feb. 1, when students begin a full on-site reintegration at the Valley Unified schools. The Warrior boys first game is scheduled to take place Thursday, Feb. 4, against Madawaska in Fort Kent.

“It has been a long couple months waiting for this to get going,” Cyr said. “Obviously the purpose of the delay is only to ensure the healthiness of communities.” 

Spectators will not be allowed to attend games in-person this season, but nearly all Aroostook County high school basketball games will be live-streamed for online viewing due to a collaborative effort between Northern Maine Media and WAGM-TV. A subscription is required to watch these games.

Madawaska is not included in the collaboration between the two media groups as the district has its own online television station (WOWL) and will broadcast games themselves through a Youtube Channel.

“I am looking forward to salvaging whatever we can for a season,” Cyr said. “These boys love our basketball culture and, believe it or not, sports give them purpose. I can’t wait to see them get back to things they love.”

Valley Unified Executive Director Ben Sirois noted in a Jan. 10 update on his Valley Unified Superintendent Blog that there is still no guarantee winter sports will take place for Valley Unified students, depending on the trajectory of the COVID-19 virus.

“Please keep in mind that (if) at any time we move back to a remote learning model, or if the Mills Administration codes Aroostook as either yellow or red, athletics has to take a pause during that time,” Sirois said. 

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