By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – Provided it still happens, the 2020-2021 school year will be a challenge for all involved. To be blunt, the way schools operated up until March of this year may never return. A new normal is about to unfold before our very eyes.
One area of the new school year that normally gets people excited in the East Texas area is the return of high school athletics. Once again, this feeling of excitement also has an air of trepidation about it. Football, volleyball and cross country practices are under way now and by the start of next week, the girls will be playing volleyball games. Two weeks later, football season will begin in earnest.
In years past, this would mean an influx of spectators and local fans. However, it’s a brand new world thanks to COVID-19. That means new rules and guidelines have been drawn up for those who would choose to attend the sporting events.
Grapeland ISD recently put together a set of guidelines for extra-curricular activity attendance. These are listed below:
Schools may allow spectators to attend games, contests, or events within a maximum 50% capacity limitation, provided that appropriate spacing between spectators is maintained according to the protocol, and according to the following:
1. Schools and/or host sites should post visible signs and/or messaging stating any individuals who are confirmed to have, suspected of having, are experiencing symptoms of, or have been in close contact with an individual who has been confirmed to have COVID-19 should not enter the facility.
2. Spectators, audiences, fans and media are required to wear face coverings as described in Executive Order GA-29.
3. Sites are encouraged to utilize remote ticketing options to help manage capacity limitations within a maximum 50% occupancy. Paper tickets and programming should be minimized to help avoid transferable materials.
● Ticket sales will be handled by each school and the visiting team will pay for tickets sold to their fans.
4. If possible, set reserved times for entry to avoid mass arrivals.
5. Groups should maintain at least six feet of distance from other groups at all times, including the process of admission and seating. A group is defined as no more than 10 people including the members of the household and those persons who traveled together to the facility.
6. Schools should not allow seating in consecutive rows, and should block off seating to maintain a minimum six feet of distance between groups.
7. Pathways for spectator ingress and egress should be clearly marked and unobstructed.
● Administrators on Duty along with press box public service announcements will guide the flow of traffic at games.
8. Schools should provide hand sanitizing stations and/or hand washing stations at entrances and inside the facility.
9. Seating, hand rails, and other common surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected prior to each game or contest.
10. Press Box seating should include social distancing of at least six feet between individuals when possible.
11. Schools should limit access to working media providing coverage of the event to ensure protocols are followed.
12. Post-game interviews should be conducted while wearing face coverings and maintaining at least six feet of distance between the interviewer and individual being interviewed.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.