Athletic proposal would let more parents in games — with consequences if districts violate safety protocols

Spectators watch a high school football game in the fall of 2020.

A proposal from a coalition of Idaho education groups to let more spectators attend athletic events would require districts to follow a list of safety measures, and carries penalties for schools that don’t comply.

The Idaho School Administrators Association, Idaho High School Activities Association, Idaho School Boards Association and members of the Idaho State Board of Education delivered the proposal to Gov. Brad Little on Friday. The proposed plan attempts to address parent and student concerns about a current 10-person limit on spectators at sports games, while enforcing a comprehensive set of safety protocols, according to a news release from the ISBA.

Little enacted the 10-person gathering limit on Nov. 14 when he moved Idaho into stage two of a statewide coronavirus response plan, following a surge in COVID-19 cases. While the limit doesn’t apply to classrooms or athletes participating in sports events, it does apply to spectators at those events.

The order was met with anger from parents who wanted to attend their children’s games. At least a handful of schools ignored the order and continued to allow more than 10 spectators at athletic events, with no immediate consequences.

Little told superintendents and state education leaders last week that he would consider amendments to address parent concerns, but made no promises he would change the 10-person limit, according to State Board of Education president Debbie Critchfield.

The draft proposal from education groups — which Little has not agreed to — would allow up to two spectators per athlete, on both home and away teams. Districts would have to enforce a host of safety protocols, including mask mandates for non-participating players, essential personnel, and spectators who can’t maintain a six-foot distance. And, to allow the extra spectators, districts leaders have to sign an “assurance page” agreeing to consequences if they don’t follow safety protocols set out in the plan.

  • First offense: The school receives a written reprimand from the State Board.
  • Second offense: A non-compliant school forfeits the event.
  • Third offense: A non-compliant school will forfeit all future events in that sport for the remainder of the winter season.

If Little agrees to the proposed plan, districts don’t have to sign on. But any district that choses not to sign the agreement will have to abide by the 10-person spectator limit currently imposed by the stage two order, the proposal says.

“This plan seeks to strike a balance between doing our part to keep the COVID-19 infection rate down and allowing Idaho’s kids to continue their educational and extracurricular experiences that involve their parent/guardian,” the ISBA news release says.

Read the draft plan and assurance form below:

Sami Edge

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