Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) has updated its COVID-19 protocols for athletic events, increasing crowd capacity for outdoor games to 25 percent.
At the Feb. 16 School Board of Alachua County regular meeting, board members discussed requests from parents who were unable to attend their children's event due to ticket limits.
In response, district spokesperson Jackie Johnson relayed the new rules for attendance levels as follows: For indoor events, schools must limit attendance to 15 percent of the facility’s capacity. For outdoor events, schools must limit attendance to 25 percent of the capacity. Schools may maintain a 15 percent capacity limit, or reduce attendance further at the discretion of school administration.
Newberry Commissioner Tim Marden asked the school board to drop capacity limits completely.
In response to that request, Johnson issued the following statement: "We continue to follow the protocols, including those for sporting events, set by the Scientific Medical Advisory Council, which is made up of medical experts from the University of Florida. Under recently revised protocols, our capacity limits at school sporting events are 15 percent for indoor events and 25 percent for outdoor events. If the principal at the hosting school feels the school has the capacity to ensure those in attendance are following the guidelines on masking, etc."
In response to the claim made in Marden's request that neighboring counties have similar COVID-19 statistics when compared to Alachua County, the ACPS cited Florida Department of Health statistics showing the county has the second-lowest rate of cases among children under 18 in the state.
"Alachua County's pediatric positivity rate as of February 20 is 10.9 percent (Monroe is at 10.7 percent)," the school district statement said. "Looking at the figures for the counties cited by Commissioner Marden, the rate in Gilchrist is 16.5 percent, in Levy it's 14.2 percent, in Union it's 17.1 percent, in Bradford it's 14.4 percent and in Marion it's 13.8 percent. That means the difference in positivity rates between Alachua County and those counties cited by Mr. Marden range from 27 percent to 57 percent, a pretty significant difference. We attribute much of our success in keeping rates among children low to following the recommendations of the Scientific Medical Advisory Committee."