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Ryan Barsby is pictured at GMC Prep baseball's home doubleheader against Lincoln County Thursday.

The presence of COVID-19 in Georgia is sending shockwaves through the state’s schools and heavily impacting high school athletic programs. 

Following Gov. Brian Kemp’s Thursday press conference, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), the state’s governing body for high school athletics, recommended that its member schools suspend spring sports activities until further notice. There’s a reason that statement came as a recommendation and not a mandate.

“The regular season belongs to the schools themselves,“ said Dr. Robin Hines, GHSA executive director, in a Thursday statement. “We can only recommend that they suspend playing. The final decision will rest with the local school systems, but we hope they heed the Governor’s and the GHSA’s recommendations.”

Baldwin High School and GMC Prep, the two GHSA member schools in Baldwin County, announced Friday that they would be heeding those recommendations. BHS students will still attend school, but athletic events have been cancelled at least until after spring break, which is the week of March 30 through April 3. 

Baldwin High School was set to host several schools for the seventh annual Central Georgia Relays track and field competition Saturday, but that event has been postponed per BHS Athletic Director Dexter Ricks. He said all but two schools had dropped out of the meet before Baldwin opted to suspend athletic competitions. 

GMC Prep baseball hosted Lincoln County Thursday in what is likely to be the last athletic competition the school participates in for a while. GMC announced Friday that athletic competition has been cancelled until March 29.

The athletic program at BHS will hold practice as usual as long as school remains in session.

The GHSA has cancelled the state literary competitions scheduled for March 14 and March 21, and has the power to do so since they are GHSA-sanctioned events. One of them was scheduled to take place at GMC Prep Saturday. 

“The GHSA State Literary meets are expected to be made up at a future date,” the GHSA’s statement reads. “The situation with the remaining spring sports is yet to be determined.”

Dr. Hines went on to say his organization would issue an update by Friday, March 27.

“We hate to have to make this call, but we must do what is in the best interest of our student-athletes and fans,” Hines said.

The Georgia Independent School Association, the governing body for private school athletics, of which John Milledge Academy is a member, has gone a step further than the GHSA and suspended all athletic competition starting Saturday through Friday, April 10.

“We are complying with the GISA in suspending all athletic activities from March 14 through Friday, April 10,” JMA Athletic Director JT Wall told The Union-Recorder. “We know this is a fluid situation and we’ve got to be ready to adapt. Hopefully we’ll be able to get these spring sports seasons in if at all possible. This is a serious situation we’ve got to monitor daily.”

John Milledge hosted varsity baseball and soccer action Friday for what will be the last time in almost a full month. 

“Every attempt will be made to reschedule non-athletic events when it is appropriate to do so,” reads an email sent out from the GISA to its member schools.

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