Following Gov. Tom Wolf's reversal and a bill passed by the state Legislature, spectators will be permitted in a limited fashion at Seneca Valley School District sporting events.
In a unanimous vote at a board meeting Monday, the district approved a revised health and safety plan for the return to sports/activity in which a number of spectators will be permitted, based on a list of factors.
Revisions to the plan were not related to a federal court ruling Monday that declared the governor's business closure and stay-at-home orders unconstitutional, but were instead in response to the General Assembly's passage of House Bill 2787, which grants to districts the “exclusive authority” to develop mitigation measures.
That bill sits before the governor, who is expected to veto it, although both houses of the Legislature passed the bill by large enough margins that it appears the veto would be overridden.
Heather Lewis, the district's athletic director, said the biggest change to the protocols is that spectators — and, therefore, student-athletes' parents — will be permitted in the bleachers.
“This will allow the opportunity for our parents to get into the stands and watch their children compete,” Lewis said.
The factors deciding the number of spectators are manifold, with each sport having its own crowd size limit.
“A cross-country race course will be different than a volleyball gymnasium,” Lewis said. “We will set the spectator capacity based on the venue and the sport and the squad sizes … in that particular venue.”
Seneca Valley will continue to charge for attendance at sports competitions as it has in the past, but with increased prices to accommodate services the district now must perform in accordance with various guidelines.
“We're going to be charging more money, but we've got a lot to do to make sure we can keep things clean,” Eric DiTullio, board vice president, said.
While the text of the revised plan was not immediately available, the state's social-distancing and face-covering mandates are expected to be followed at sporting events.
“We're not trying to prevent anyone from seeing their kids play, but there's going to be growing pains of doing things different than in the past,” DiTullio added.
Like most other changes that school districts have made in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, board members urged parents to be patient while situations change and evolve.
“It's going to be a buy-in,” board member Kathy Whittle said. “We're not going to be able to do this unless we all cooperate.”