The athletic director for Alachua County Public Schools said he has put six high schools on notice after receiving photographs of packed stands from concerned parents who attended recent football games.
ACPS Athletic Director Charles Wise said the letter was sent to all of the schools that he oversees including teams that play at Citizens Field in Gainesville. Those teams are Buchholz High, Gainesville High, Eastside High, Newberry High, Santa Fe High, and Hawthorne High.
"Congratulations on a largely successful start of your fall sports season last Friday," Wise wrote. "Unfortunately, I have received reports that some schools are not following our COVID-19 protocol. The 25 percent fan capacity rule seems to be the primary infraction. When I see photos of a packed arena or stadium it's pretty obvious.
"This is a problem for multiple reasons," Wise continued. "First we told our city and county governments that we would limit fan attendance to 25 percent. Recall they were seriously considering limiting us to 50 fans total! Second, it's not fair to schools who are following the rules. Besides foregoing the home ticket revenue, these complying schools will invariably get inquiries and complaints from their students, parents and faculty, e.g., "why are we enforcing these rules if it's optional?"
Wise acknowledged that schools were losing revenue as a result of the reduction in tickets being sold. "The city schools will get killed during their normally sold out 4,000+ city games at Citizens," he wrote. "But we have no choice until this virus is deemed under control and we return to normal operations."
Wise said he knows that the ticket sales for Citizens Field are at 25 percent because he oversees that facility, but he issued the letter to all athletic directors.
Wise's summary of his message to ACPS athletic directors: "It's 25 percent folks. Plus everyone wears a mask, except athletes in action. And responsible social distancing."
The ACPS reopening plan refers to the rules set by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) as the guidance for slowing the spread of COVID-19. Several ACPS schools held Senior Night last week instead of at the end of the season and that meant the stadiums were packed with friends and families not only for the season openers but also so they could see students get recognized.
According to Wise and the FHSAA, there should have been modifications to locker room and bus capacity, all fans and players and cheerleaders are to wear face masks except when players are on the field, and the cheerleaders are performing. Referees, coaches and all sideline personnel are expected to wear face masks at all times.
The sideline box has been expanded to stretch from the 10 to 10 yard lines instead of 25 to 25 yard lines to help with social distancing.
Announcements are made to fans and players over the PA system each quarter reminding them of the CDC standards.
Click here to see the complete list of guidelines.
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