Officials from two of the Washington area's largest school systems yesterday cleared the way for the resumption of all their high school sports seasons, announcing that they would permit teams to practice outdoors today. Fairfax and Montgomery counties announced their plans last night after police confirmed that they believe the man and teenager arrested early yesterday are responsible for the sniper shootings in the Washington area.
Both counties plan to resume games at school fields in the next few days, and other school systems and leagues are poised to follow suit.
"If the threat is over, we can go back outside," Brian Porter, spokesman for the Montgomery County Schools, said before the news conference.
The sniper shootings started Oct. 2 and resulted in 10 deaths, with three people seriously wounded. After an Oct. 7 shooting wounded a 13-year-old boy outside a Bowie middle school, most high schools in the area decided to postpone or cancel outdoor games and hold practices indoors.
Montgomery County officials had created a number of contingency plans that would have taken effect over the weekend, including holding practices at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Porter said. But now the county plans to allow practices to resume today and games to begin as soon as Saturday.
In the Virginia AAA Northern Region, which is composed of public schools in Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington, many cross-country and field hockey teams and four football teams will play this weekend at military installations, according to a release on Fairfax County's Web site. The four football teams are making up games they missed last weekend, when much of the region played at out-of-town sites across Virginia.
Northern Region schools will resume holding games on campus Monday.
In Prince George's County, County Supervisor of Athletics Earl Hawkins said all soccer, cross-country and football teams could be allowed to practice outdoors as early as today, pending a decision by County Schools Chief Iris T. Metts this morning.
The county will not hold football games this weekend, but Hawkins said a tentative plan is in place that would allow the county's 21 public school teams to play four of their final five games during a span of 12 days, beginning on Tuesday. The games will be held at their regularly scheduled sites. Prince George's teams will not make up games scheduled for Oct. 18 or 19, Hawkins said.
"If football is allowed to practice outside [today], then there is good chance we will have games on Tuesday," Hawkins said. "But it's all pending approval."
Prince George's football coaches are optimistic the season has been salvaged.
"That is excellent, that is the first good news I've heard in three weeks," Gwynn Park football coach Danny Hayes said.
The D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association will announce plans regarding practices and games today, said Allen Chin, the league's executive director.
The arrests were well-timed for area high school teams. With the postseason approaching, some teams and leagues would have had to consider canceling seasons if they had failed to resume play soon.
The Potomac Valley Athletic Conference, composed of 14 private schools in the District and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, had planned to cancel the playoffs for boys' and girls' soccer unless police said they had apprehended the sniper by noon on Monday, league president Tom O'Mara said.
"People were starting to believe that [the murder investigation] was not going to be resolved any time soon," O'Mara said. "Some of the schools wanted to get started with the winter season and get the kids into the indoor sports."
Staff writers Tarik El-Bashir, Judith Evans and Jon Gallo and special correspondent Josh Leventhal contributed to this report.