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Local districts issue guidelines for high school spectators

By Bill Althaus and Karl Zinke
The Examiner
Scenes like this, when Truman fans celebrated a boys basketball win in 2019, will not be allowed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and new social distancing and limited attendance guidelines issued by Eastern Jackson County school districts this week.

As the 2020 high school sports season prepares to kick off Friday, several Eastern Jackson County school districts have decided on their guidelines for spectators.

The Independence, Blue Springs, Fort Osage and Grain Valley school districts announced their guidelines for students, coaches, parents, fans and officials for their home events and activities Thursday. The Lee’s Summit School District released its guidelines on Wednesday.

In Eastern Jackson County, the football, softball, girls tennis and girls golf seasons are scheduled to get started Friday with opening games and tournaments.

EJC school district full guidelines for school sports

In Jackson County, outside gatherings are limited to no more than 100 people. Lee’s Summit said it will limit spectators to 100 and “athletic and activity leaders will be in communication about how those tickets will be dispersed per program or event.”

Most of the guidelines are consistent with the Greater Kansas City Suburban Conference recommendations and align with the Center For Disease Control recommendations as well.

The Independence, Blue Springs, Fort Osage, Grain Valley and Lee’s Summit districts have many of the same edicts, including:

  • Students, employees and spectators should not attend if they are ill, experiencing any coronavirus-like symptoms or recently had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Coaches, staff, guests, and spectators are required to wear masks at all venues, indoor and outdoor. They should wear masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking.
  • Proper social distancing, including at least 6 feet between family groups, is required, and no large student groups will be permitted.
  • Spectators will not be allowed on any field or court after the contest.
  • There will be no gate fees. Most schools will require tickets for entry and some events may be off limits to spectators.
  • Tailgating or loitering in parking lots will not be permitted. Parking will be limited to those attending an event.

These guidelines are only for local home events, and each district noted that these guidelines could be altered rapidly with changing circumstances. The districts advise parents and spectators to check with other districts for their policies on away events and games.

The Independence School District and the Lee’s Summit School District said they will not allow visiting spectators to attend any of their games or events at their facilities.

The Blue Springs School District said it will allow visiting fans, providing two tickets each to participants on the opposing team. Blue Springs school participants, including athletes, cheerleaders and dance team members, will be provided with four tickets for each participant for home varsity and freshman football, varsity/JV volleyball, and varsity/JV soccer games. Softball may require tickets at times, and non-ticketed home events include golf, tennis, JV football, freshman volleyball and freshman soccer. Attendance for cross country and swimming will vary based on the venue/course.

Blue Springs stressed that spectators who do not have tickets will not be allowed on school property and will not be allowed to stand outside fences or in other areas on school grounds to view the games.

Grain Valley said tickets will be required for admission to football, soccer and volleyball games, and that each student participant – athletes, cheerleaders and dance teams – will be allowed two tickets each. Grain Valley and Independence both said that home volleyball tournaments will not be allowed to have any spectators because of crowd limits.

Tickets won’t be required for Grain Valley softball, cross country, golf, tennis, swimming and diving, middle school activities and lower level football, but that is subject to change. With concessions not available, Grain Valley and Lee’s Summit will also allow spectators to bring in bottled drinks but not outside food.

“These (guidelines) may change,” Grain Valley activities director Brandon Hart said. “We are taking a look at what’s happening in Eastern Jackson County and we want to give everyone the most up-to-date information possible.

“Many of these guidelines will remain the same, and we are fortunate that we open our football season on the road (at Smithville Friday), so if we make changes, it will not affect anything Friday night.”

Fort Osage will also issue tickets to its participants, stressing that misplaced tickets will not be replaced and that anyone without a ticket will not be allowed to attend. Student IDs and passes will not be accepted for admission. Fort Osage also asks spectators to write their names on the ticket to be turned in at the gate. Fort Osage said it will have bottled water and some pre-packaged food for sale at its concession stand. 

Fort Osage softball, cross country, girls golf and girls tennis will not require tickets, but only two guests per participant are allowed per event and will be admitted free.

All Independence School District varsity coaches and players will receive two tickets per event, but only if they are participating. Cross country and girls tennis will not require tickets. Students, staff, parents and community members without tickets will not be permitted to enter.

Truman will open its 2020 football season Friday at home against Grandview. William Chrisman (against Winnetonka at North Kansas City High School) and Van Horn (at Kansas City East) will start their seasons on the road.

When asked if he was pleased football starts on the road, Bears activities director Greg McGhee laughed.

“We host softball Friday, so we’re ready to go,” he said as the host Bears meet Harrisonville at 1:30 p.m. Friday to begin pool play in the Greater Kansas City Suburban Softball Invitational. “I like what everyone is doing because we’re all doing what is best for the kids and for everyone else. Let’s play.”

The Independence School District stressed that grandstand seating will be limited. Spectators are allowed to bring their own chairs but are asked to maintain social distancing guidelines when seated.

ISD will allow concessions but ask that guests adhere to social distancing markings while in line. Blue Springs said some venues will have concessions in a grab-and-go format only.