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Governor agrees to allow more spectators at high school sports events

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After weeks of discussion, Gov. Brad Little is allowing more than 10 spectators at high school sporting events while Idaho is in stage two of a statewide reopening plan.

The Governor’s High School Athletic Plan for spectators, released on December 30, allows two spectators per student athlete at an event. It closely mirrors a plan that Idaho education groups proposed to the governor on Dec. 18.

The change allows high school athletes and cheerleaders to each invite two spectators to their home and away games. The spectators and hosting schools have to abide by strict guidelines.

“We’re trying to balance the legitimate interest of parents, guardians and others who want to be spectators, we’re balancing that with public health,” said Greg Wilson, a senior policy advisor for the governor.

Masks are required for all non-participating athletes at an event, essential personnel, administrators and table help. Spectators will also be required to wear masks when not seated and physically distanced at least 12 feet from non-household members.

Other requirements include:

  • Limiting the size of teams allowed into an event space.
  • Distancing in all common areas and separate entrances for home and away spectators.
  • Sanitizing event areas between events and posting protocols on entry doors.

Health districts or schools with more stringent health orders are allowed to enforce those in addition to this protocol.

The plan also comes with consequences for schools that break the rules. Schools found in non-compliance will get a written warning from the State Board of Education on first offense, and will have to forfeit one event, or an entire sports season for repeated violations. The governor’s plan specifies that only a coach, athletic director or administrator for a team competing in an event can file a complaint about non-compliance with the State Board.

Districts that want to allow two spectators per athlete will have to sign an assurance that they agree to these terms. The deadline for those assurance forms is Jan. 15, and Wilson said a number of districts  have already turned those in. A district that doesn’t sign the assurance will have to follow a 10-person spectator limit previously in place for sports events under stage two.

Some districts flaunted that 10-spectator limit prior to this change. The new athletic plan warns against that.

“Widespread non-compliance with this plan will lead to this exemption being revoked,” it says.

Debbie Critchfield, president of the State Board, said education groups are currently discussing plans to accommodate spectators at other non-athletic extracurricular events, and middle school sports.

 

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