At their Sept. 14 meeting, the Mid-Prairie Board of Education reversed its previous decision to place attendee limits on sporting events.
At a special meeting on Sept. 8 the board instituted a policy that limited ticket availability by allowing each participant, such as an athlete, band member or coach, to designate four attendees for outdoor events and three attendees for indoor events. The remaining tickets were distributed by lottery to students. General admission fans were not permitted.
Head volleyball coach Sherry Evans said this policy negatively impacted her student athletes.
“When our girls came up to us, they were distraught. Their mental health was all over the place,” Evans said. “Picking and choosing, when you’re a split-family home and you have three tickets, it isn’t good mental health for these kids—Do I put down my step-mom, step-dad, dad, mom, which brother, which sister?”
Evans proposed an alternative safety measure that designates which doors the opposing fans, student section, and home fans will enter and exit through in order to eliminate cross-contamination between these groups.
The River Valley Conference recently instituted a mask mandate for indoor events, so volleyball fans will be required to wear a face covering. Within the sporting event crowds, however, social distancing will remain recommended and not monitored.
At the Sept. 8 meeting, school board member Jeremy Pickard stressed that social distancing is crucial in order to stem the number of students absent due to quarantine.
I do think that quarantining is going to be the thing that’s going to do us in,” he said. “We have to figure out a way to stay six feet apart.”
Mid-Prairie district attendance data shows a peak in COVID-related absences late last week, with six students out due to positive tests and 149 quarantined on Sept. 11. Superintendent Mark Schneider said he is expecting these numbers to fall as the initial wave of quarantined students come back to school this week.
Head football coach Pete Cavanagh also expressed concern about the student section at the Sept. 8 meeting.
“I’m going to be honest, if I turn around and look at our student section that has 70 kids standing shoulder-to-shoulder, that makes me a little uneasy,” he said. “Some of those kids that were in that student section [on Aug. 28] got positive tests. I’m not saying it’s because of that, but it just doesn’t feel right to put them back in that same situation.”
The downpouring rain during the Sept. 11 football game affected student fan attendance, but there were still 10-15 kids “standing shoulder to shoulder” even though there was adequate room to social distance, said Activities Director Tyler Hotz.
“We’re going to stick with just recommending social distancing,” Hotz said. “It’s the same thing we’re doing in classrooms, we’re doing the best we can.”
During football games the marching band will be moved from the bleachers to the south end zone to create more room to social distance in the stands.
School board member Gabrielle Frederick said there is lack of consistency in safety measures between the classroom and sporting event crowds.
“I struggle with that we are saying we’re going to social distance when it comes to a football or volleyball game but we’re still not social distancing in our classrooms,” she said.