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More can attend football games, other events

By Mike Genet

As it planned to do, the Blue Springs School District this week dropped its lawsuit against the Jackson County Health Department after the department issued revised attendance guidelines.

With the new county guidelines released last week, outdoor gatherings of greater than 100 people will be permitted, with protocols and with a plan approved by the county. The Blue Springs District said that under its approved plan, the stadiums at Blue Springs and Blue Springs South high schools will accommodate no more than 20 percent capacity – 1,000 spectators. Spectators must sit with their family unit, must wear masks and should social distance when moving throughout the stadium. Concession stands will not be open.

“This revision will allow district and visiting families the opportunity to watch their student play or participate in events held at our district stadiums,” the school district said in a statement. “Many of our district parents had been completely excluded or forced to decide which one person from the family may attend.”

In the statement, the district said its legal fees for the case were fully covered by donations from the community, though it has not yet disclosed how much those fees were and who donated toward them.

Under the county’s revised guidelines for all indoor and outdoor sites, organizations planning to host gatherings of more than 100 people must submit a gathering protocol at least 72 hours in advance, and it must be approved by the county and easily accessible to all attendees. Mask wearing, social distancing and other protocols should be in place to limit potential transmission of COVID-19.

When the county released those guidelines last week, Blue Springs Schools asked to cancel a trial scheduled for last Monday, said Jason Rew, an attorney representing the district. The district waited until its attendance plan had been approved before officially dropping the lawsuit. The revised guidelines, Rew said, rendered the lawsuit moot.

The district sued the county last month regarding the 100-person attendance limit for outdoor gatherings, after the Health Department threatened sanctions for future district events when the district hosted a football game at Blue Springs High School with a reported 430 people in attendance.

When Blue Springs Schools sued the Health Department, the district asked for a temporary restraining order immediately before the next home football games, which Circuit Judge Cory Atkins denied. The district also asked the court to rule on the legality of such guidelines and to bar the Health Department from issuing sanctions.  

Similar to Blue Springs, Independence Schools Superintendent Dale Herl said his district also had been approved for a plan to allow 20 percent capacity at home football games and other sporting events. 

High schools in Independence, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs and elsewhere have severely limited attendance at football games this season. The Raytown-Raytown South game and William Chrisman-Truman football games last month were played at Staley High School, where Clay’s County’s guidelines allowed for more attendance.

“Events with greater than 100 attendees can occur with less risk when masks are worn properly and contact is limited between attendees, staff and others,” the Health Department posted on social media when it issued the new guidelines. “Gatherings continue to be high-risk activities that have potential to become super spreader events. Organizers and attendees of events, especially those that are most vulnerable, should take the risk of COVID-19 seriously when weighing the decision to attend an event.”