Fans will be in the stands

Some fans of Kansas athletics were disappointed three weeks ago when the Kansas State High School Activities Association voted that there would be no spectators allowed at interscholastic events from Dec. 1, 2020 through Jan. 28, 2021.

After receiving many letters from parents, the KSHSAA Board of Appeals voted to recommend to the Board of Directors (BOD) to reconsider the spectator ban. The KSHSAA BOD met virtually Tuesday, Dec. 8, to consider allowing up to two parents or guardians per participant.

By a vote of 54-24, the KSHSAA BOD approved the motion that effective Thursday, Dec. 10, interscholastic activities will allow for attendance of up to two parents or guardians per participant(s) family as allowed by local board of education or health department restrictions. Participants are defined as players, coaches, student managers, cheer squads, dance teams, pep bands and members of student journalism. This policy allows a family that has two “participants” a total of two parents or guardians to attend—not four spectators.

During its meeting, the KSHSAA BOD considered motions that would have allowed family members besides parents or guardians, but these motions were voted down.

KSHSAA Clarification

After receiving many requests for clarification, KSHSAA provided further information regarding participants and their parents or guardians.

• Coaches may have parents/guardians or spouse/significant other.

• Children of coaches and administrators do not meet the definition approved by the BOD.

• School Board members do not meet the criteria established by the BOD unless their child is an active participant.

• Parents/guardians are there to support their child while in competition. There is no reason for them to attend “all” games in the facility on a given day.

• Teams playing in that facility as part of a multi-game event may remain in the gym as long as they are socially distant.

• All spectators must be masked the entire time in facility, even if they are socially distanced.

• No “substitutes” for parent/guardian if they are unable to attend contest.

• Event staff are not afforded parent/guardian or spouse attendance.

• The impacted interscholastic activities include basketball, bowling, debate, forensics/speech, scholars bowl, swimming and diving, and wrestling.

Admittance to events

While having up to two parents or guardians present is appealing, it also poses some difficulties for administrators and for some participants’ families.

Students who have multiple parent units will have to work with their families to determine who will attend the events. Additionally, it is nearly impossible for administration to determine who are a participant’s parents or guardians, especially from visiting teams.

Sabetha Middle School principal Matt Garber, a member of KSHSAA’s 78-member BOD, said that many schools will have to determine how they will check in parents and guardians.

In an email sent to Sabetha High School parents Wednesday, Dec. 9, Principal David Glynn explained that SHS would utilize a sign-in system for admittance to home events. In this system, up to two parents or guardians will be asked to sign in on a roster next to their participant’s name. This will be done at the south entrance at the time of payment.

“We feel like that [the sign-in sheet] will help toward the accountability issue,” said SHS Athletic Director Scott Burger.

Principal Garber said SMS will follow the same procedure, though the school does not host an event until Jan. 14, 2021. More information will be provided closer to that date.

While Sabetha will follow this procedure, attendance and admittance policies and procedures at away events may be different due to local decisions.

Further LIMITed ATTENDANCE

Even though Sabetha will typically allow the “up to two parents or guardians,” at most events, it may not be the case for all events.

Garber said districts could decide to lessen the amount of fans based on recommendations from health officials and school boards. Certain events — such as tournaments — also could have restrictions on the number of fans.

Glynn’s email further stated, “A circumstance may arise wherein SHS would further limit attendance. This would only occur if the event hosted involved multiple schools and seating availability was to become a concern.”

Burger said that the school hopes to allow two parents or guardians into each sporting activity. However, it may vary from sport to sport, as different events that Sabetha hosts might have more limited seating. Administration will discuss each event that Sabetha hosts and develop a plan to meet the local safety standards.

“So many things come into play,” Burger said. “The sport, how much bleacher space is available, how many teams are coming. It might look different at each event.”

Going forward

The allowing of up to two parents per participant will continue through Jan. 28, 2021, at which time the decision to allow more fans — or restrict fans — would be left up to individual districts. The KSHSAA BOD does not have any additional meetings scheduled to further discuss the winter activity season. Garber said there is a possibility that the decision would be sent through the appeals process again, but it is not known at this time if that will occur.

At all times, each school is expected to follow to the universal face coverings and social distancing guidelines passed by the KSHSAA BOD at its Nov. 24 meeting.

The face coverings guideline is as follows: All participants (including but not limited to athletes, coaches, officials, spectators, support staff and all others attending/participating in school activities) shall wear a face covering in the manner it is intended to be worn (for purpose of COVID-19 risk mitigation) while at the event venue and for duration of the event. The only exception is provided for athletes during the time they are competing and for officials during active play.

“We are going down unchartered waters,” Burger said. “We have to keep in mind that No. 1 — our kids are getting to participate and No. 2 — in most situations, our parents are going to be able to see these events. I feel like that is a win/win situation.”

Communication & Live Streaming

SMS and SHS will communicate policies for away events via email and social media. Follow SHS on Facebook at Sabetha Bluejays and Sabetha High School Live Action for updates. Follow SMS on Facebook at Sabetha Middle School.

Both schools also will continue to provide live streaming of events via Facebook.

Krista Wasinger53 Posts

Krista Wasinger is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2011. She specializes in city reporting and feature stories, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Krista is a 2004 Fort Hays State University graduate with a degree in communications studies with an emphasis in journalism.

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