Schools tackle spectator restrictions

With sports events resuming at area schools, districts are faced with the dilemma of how to adhere to the limits on capacities set by the Wolf administration and still allow some spectators at events.

As of Thursday, 250 people are allowed to attend outdoor events and 25 for indoor sports. Although a bill was passed by the state Legislature Wednesday which would place the decision for the capacity in the hands of individual school boards, the governor has said that he will veto it. That could tie up the situation for part of the fall sports season.

The largest district in the area, Williamsport Area, is in the process of developing a plan with an eye at how to handle having all those necessary to the game, such as teams, coaches, band members and cheerleaders, in addition to ancillary staff, which would be officials, media and security, in a stadium.

“We met with the band director, met with the principal, met with the superintendent, to talk about it, to try to find out what’s good for kids, what’s going to work best for our kids and for our families as well,” said Sean McCann, Williamsport’s athletic director.

“We’re working on a recommendation to make something happen so that as many people can see the game as possible, working within the limits,” he added.

Ultimately the final plan must be approved by any district’s school board, before being implemented.

Because the focus for most schools is on the football season, McCann admitted, “We have our hands tied a little bit when you start counting officials, especially with a varsity football game.”

“We have a lot more entities at the game including media and workers,” he said.

With Williamsport’s first two football games away and their first home game not until Sept. 25, McCann indicated that the athletic department is watching to see what works for other schools.

Volleyball games at Williamsport also present a unique situation with the 25-person limit on indoor events.

“We’re trying to set up a format which allows us to play a game with substitutes and JV kids out in another room and bringing them in as necessary, switching them out. Trying to be creative that way,” McCann said.

“It does tie our hands quite a bit, but we want to do it for the kids. We want to do what we can, to make it work and follow the rules,” he added.

Throughout this past week, school boards in the area have been meeting to address the issue. Some, such as Loyalsock Township, have approved a plan that would allow spectators at outdoor events in a stadium, provided they had a ticket, which would be given out before the games.

Loyalsock, like Williamsport, struggles with the fact that when you add up the team members, staff, band and cheerleaders, the total leaves little room for additional spectators.

“Our grand party, as I call it, which means our band members, our football team, our cheerleaders, that number comes up to 183,” said Ron Insinger, Loyalsock Township’s athletic director.

Loyalsock has canceled football games for the next two weeks due to a probable case of COVID-19 among the varsity football players. But, Insinger noted that if the game with Mount Carmel had been able to go forward this week, only seven spectators would have been allowed in the stadium. That calculation includes the number of members on the opposing team.

Anticipating state legislation putting the capacity decision in their hands, Loyalsock’s board also passed a measure which would increase capacity at stadium events to 750 spectators. This would be in addition to the total number of team and band members, cheerleaders and other essential workers at games.

If that happens, the board decided on a system of ticketing where team members would be first to get tickets to give to whomever they choose. The remaining tickets would be distributed prior to games with the emphasis being placed on student spectators. The opposing team would get a portion of the tickets, but no tickets would be sold at games. Off-site sports events, such as soccer, would not have tickets.

East Lycoming School District also is considering a ticketing system. The protocol, according to Michael Pawlik, superintendent, would be for senior team members to get two tickets and junior members, one ticket.

One of the smaller districts, Muncy does have an advantage when it comes to the amount of essential people at games, such as band members.

In order to comply with the limits on stadium capacity, Muncy is not allowing spectators from the visiting teams during football games.

According to Muncy’s athletic director Curt Chilson, the district is planning to allot tickets first to team members, much the same as East Lycoming.

Chilson said that the district had let parents know that coaches would be distributing tickets to their players for the games.

“Kids would have those and then take them home to give to their parents,” Chilson said.

“We’re trying to give each kid two tickets so that both of their parents would get there,” he added.

Chilson noted that Muncy is planning to have some game workers, such as ticket sellers and security, sit outside the fence to reduce the number in the stadium.

“(We) want to make room so that most parents can get in to watch the game,” he said.

Parents of cheerleaders and band members would not receive tickets, but the plan is to have band parents come in the stadium during half-time when the band performs and members of the teams are in the locker room.

“There’s a lot of logistics trying to make it all work,” Chilson added.

For Williamsport, some of the decision on spectators has been taken out of their hands. The conference they play in, Wyoming Valley, places the emphasis on the home team being allotted the limited number of tickets that would be available.

“Their focus has been, let’s take care of our senior parents and our families here and then when we go to Williamsport, they’ll take care of their senior parents and their families there,” McCann explained.

McCann said Williamsport’s football games will be livestreamed.


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