HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) – High school sports could be returning in Maryland sooner than expected.

During a press conference this afternoon, Maryland State Superintendent of schools, Karen Salmon, announced the ability for each local school system to officially start the fall sports season in Maryland secondary schools beginning October 7, 2020.

Salmon said that practices may begin on October 7, while games can be played starting on October 27.

“The Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland Public Schools Secondary Athletics Association have heard loudly and clearly from members of the school communities across the state that there is a desire for more options as it relates to fall sports,” Salmon said.

Local school systems can decide whether to follow this plan or the two-semester plan which was announced by the MPSSAA on September 11. Under the two-semester plan, winter sports would take place between February 1 and March 22, fall sports March 15 to May 8 and Spring sports April 26 to June 19.

“Each local school system can select whatever option best addresses the conditions in their jurisdictions,” Salmon said. “But we encourage systems that have or are continuing to bring students back into schools to consider allowing athletics to resume.”

Whichever route schools choose, they must follow the Code of Maryland Regulations and health protocols established by the state and local health departments.

Under today’s announced plan – football, cross country, field hockey, soccer and volleyball can begin practicing on October 7, while golf can begin competition that day. The last play date for the fall season would be December 12, culminating with a tournament from December 14 to 19. With the October 7 option, winter sports can be practice on December 14 and spring can begin March 15.

Maryland entered Phase 3 on September 4, giving counties the option whether to enter it or remain in Phase 2. As of September 24, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as Baltimore City, are still in Phase 2.

Montgomery County released an announcement Thursday afternoon saying that “MCPS will work closely with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to review all aspects of these two options.” Montgomery County will continue its currently implemented virtual athletics.

Public School Superintendent’s Association of Maryland released a statement earlier in the day, pointing out that “As we return to classrooms, so too will we return to play, but the timing may not be perfectly aligned.”