Newberry commissioner asks school board to drop capacity limits

A Newberry City Commissioner has reached out to the School Board of Alachua County with a request that school sporting events operate without capacity restrictions.

In a Feb. 17 email, Commissioner Tim Marden relays information he reports that he got from “a trusted citizen” that states how counties adjacent to Alachua County handle crowd capacity for sporting events.

The unnamed citizen reported to Marden:

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“I have received written confirmation back from the FHSAA that “FHSAA officials do not enforce mask mandates. No policy exists so at no point in time can a referee stop a sporting event for someone who is not wearing a facial covering.

“I contacted every county which borders AC [Alachua County],” the citizen’s information states.

“I have heard back from all but Putnam. See below: Gilchrist: No capacity limits, Levy: No capacity limits, Union: No capacity limits, Bradford: No capacity limits, Marion: 40 percent cap based on total facility capacity dependent on location. So far no one has been turned away.”

Marden’s comment in the email under the citizen’s forwarded information states, “These communities are as similar to Alachua as any. Many of the workers in Alachua come from these communities which do NOT have off the chart cases or fatalities as we would be led to believe would happen without restrictions.”

Marden ends the email with, “Freedom is the cure.” And signed it Tim Marden, Newberry City Commissioner, 352-474-1022.

Three weeks ago the state of Tennessee lifted restrictions on schools sporting event attendance, including winter sports such as high school basketball as reported by local media. The governor relayed that the decision was based on a decline in cases and hospitalizations.

On Feb. 15, the Pasco County school district doubled the number of spectators and attendees for extracurricular events and performance allowing for 50 percent capacity at all outdoor athletic and performing arts events and allowed up to four spectators per student to attend indoor events.

 At the SBAC Regular Meeting on Tuesday night, the board listened to comments about the 15 percent capacity limit on events. One parent stated that the limits are preventing some parents from seeing their children participate in events.

“No parent should ever miss their child participating in anything in this county, whether it’s band, whether it’s sports, drama, athletics, whatever it is they are doing,” said parent Sarah Beck.

Board member Tina Certain requested that first dibs for tickets be offered to parents of participating students or athletes.

“I think for both teams, if we are going to have restrictions for safety, which I understand, at least give the parents that first option to buy tickets.”

Superintendent Carlee Simon said she is consulting with the Scientific Medical Advisory Committee (SMAC) about the situation to come up with solutions for events.

Currently the capacity for Alachua County schools is set at 15 percent, but the board agreed to discuss the capacity after Simon hears from the SMAC and athletic directors.

Board member Certain dismissed Marden’s request in an emailed response to Mainstreet Daily News.

“We live in Alachua County, and we follow science and medical advice,” Certain wrote.


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