Total attendance at winter sports events inside the Lewisburg Area High School gymnasium will max out at about 140 people including athletes, coaches and spectators under the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan for athletics, according to high school Principal Paula Reber.
The district school board on Thursday unanimously adopted COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for winter sports. Similar to guidelines adopted for the fall sports season, the rules establish expectations and procedures for athletics.
The guidelines establish that all athletes, coaches and staff must be screened before any meeting, match or event. If anyone feels sick, they’re asked to stay home.
Lewisburg Area announced its first reported cases of COVID-19 last week after a student and staff member tested positive. The district did not alter its educational model, continuing with in-person classes at the moment.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s early warning dashboard this week showed Union County has a high incidence rate and is considered to have substantial levels of virus growth.
The district is following state Department of Health guidelines, which caps facility capacity at 20 percent. At the high school gym, that's 234 people, Reber said.
However, capacity will be closer to 10 percent, or 117, as Reber said just one set of bleachers inside the gym will be pulled out for events. Athletes will be seated on benches opposite spectator bleachers with no spectators sitting or walking around them.
About 60 tickets will be distributed to each team to be shared with family by student-athletes. The bleachers will be marked for social distancing.
“You always have the challenge of not knowing who’s a family member, who’s a family unit,” Reber said of seating in the bleachers.
“Of course, they will have to be masked when they’re inside,” Reber said, adding that athletes not actively participating in a game or match must also wear masks.
The high school’s weight room will allow 20 people at maximum. Locker room access is limited. Lockers won’t be used. Concessions won’t be sold.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Polinchock said aside from state health guidelines, the district will follow rules set by Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference. She said the district is close to an agreement with an unidentified facility for swim meets but that a location hasn’t been identified yet for diving.
“Everything will continue with the pre-screenings and limitations. The difference, of course, is we’re moving indoors,” Polinchock said of differences between fall and winter sports. “The kids in general want to play. They’ve done a good job staying together, following the mitigation strategy in school and out of school.”
Directors Virginia Zimmerman, Mary Ann Stanton and Erin Jablonski each inquired about safety measures, with the latter two expressing concern about indoor facility attendance.
“I really think this is something we need to think about carefully. It’s not just our community, it’s whoever we play. Hopefully, people will stay home if they feel sick. There’s a lot of community spread right now,” Jablonski said.