Valley high schools prepare for first football games of the season while juggling COVID precautions
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - High school football in the Mat-Su Valley will start Thursday, but not everyone can attend in person.
The Mat-Su Borough School District is continuing on with fall sports following COVID-19 mitigation plans. One of the safety measures is moving games to different days of the week. A game between Palmer High and Colony High junior varsity teams will start the season on Thursday.
The next day, Palmer High’s varsity team will face the varsity team from Wasilla High. The C team games will be on Tuesday evenings. The new schedule is intended to reduce the crowd sizes at each game and allow spectators to keep 10 feet of distance from one another.
Resse Everett, associate superintendent of instruction at MSBSD, said the district wants to continue allowing sports but its primary goal remains the ability to have in-person instruction.
“We want to continue to offer activities to the maximum extent possible, and we know that if we’re going to be able to do that we have to be really cautious about it,” Everett said.
By really cautious, Everett means placing restrictions on who can come to the games. Starting Thursday, coaches will hand out wrist bands to players which they can then give to people they want to come watch the game.
“If you don’t receive a wrist band, you will not be permitted entry,” Everett said.
This weekend, both games will be held at Palmer High School’s Machetanz Field which, pre-COVID, could hold 6,000 spectators. Now, that number will be limited to 700. Of those, around 50 will be support staff and safety officials with the remaining total being divided between the two teams.
In the MSBSD’s mitigation plan, it advises participants to decrease the amount of cheering that occurs, and in lieu of that, consider approving the use of artificial noisemakers.
Fans will not be screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they attend a game, and people who are considered vulnerable are advised to pay what Everett calls a nominal fee to watch livestreams of the games.
Players have been asked to sign waivers “acknowledging the risks of participating in a sport or event that would maybe not allow for social distancing.”
The mitigation plan includes recommendations for cleaning the facility including the practice of cleaning athletic equipment throughout a game and making hand sanitizer available to everyone.
The MSBSD’s plan states that athletes must wear face coverings when they are not actively partaking in the sport like when an athlete is sitting on the bench, in a locker room or on the sidelines of the field.
All spectators are required to wear cloth face coverings.
The typical displays of sportsmanship like post-game handshakes, high fives and fist bumps are not advised for the football games.
The first varsity game will be held Friday, at the Machetanz Field at 6 p.m. JV and C team will play at 6 p.m. Thursdays and Tuesdays respectively.
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