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Local school officials: Fans could be a problem

York High fans celebrates a three-point shot by Arman White during PIAA District 3, Class 5-A basketball consolation game action against Northern at William Penn Senior High School in York City, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. York High would win the game 86-68. Dawn J. Sagert photo

At least two local school officials this week suggested spectators should not be permitted at high school athletic events in their districts.

The recommendations from West York Area and Northeastern school officials preceded a vote Friday from high school principals in the York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association about whether the league will endorse having spectators at events.  

Wolf on Sept. 2 changed his guidance to reflect that spectators could be included in the maximum numbers of 25 people allowed at indoor sporting events and 250 at outdoor ones.

But, one official said, simply having two teams in a gym could violate Wolf's limits.

"Folks, I don’t know about you but we have a roster of 23 girls with three coaches," said Northeastern Athletic Director Bryan Stephens of his district's volleyball squad.

He said it wouldn't be fair to restrict spectators at some games and allow them at others.

The league vote on Friday would determine new guidance from the YAIAA and could reverse the league's earlier position. Last month, the league had recommended to member schools that spectators be banned from athletic events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More:Gov. Wolf updates guidance to allow some high school fans, with mitigation limits in place

More:Gov. Wolf vows to veto bill that would give schools final say on sports, spectators

Northeastern High School graduate Gabriel Grimm poses for a photo in front of the scoreboard, Sunday, May 31, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Tuesday night, West York Superintendent Todd Davies recommended deferring to the league's decision Friday, noting some teams could refuse to play at venues with spectators.

More:South Eastern mulls spectators at fall sports after Wolf's decision

On Tuesday night, a couple of Northeastern school board members criticized the state for what they said was inconsistent guidance. 

Districts are flouting the 25-person rule by letting hundreds of students roam in the halls, while parents are not permitted to socially distance in the stands at their games, said board member Christopher Leh.

Fellow member Eric Hornberger said there's no reason the district shouldn't reject Wolf's mandate and make decisions locally about the number of spectators permitted at games. 

"As a board, we can do this and test the waters and see how this flies," he said.

Stephens said he didn't know the penalty for failing to follow a mandate, and the district's solicitor pointed to Lebanon County, which had some state funding withheld after the county reopened early.

More:Lawsuit: Wolf must release funds to Lebanon County

But Northeastern Superintendent Stacey Sidle said it would be the school district that would be held liable for an outbreak if it rebuffed Wolf's rules. 

"We’re a public school," Sidle said. "If your family goes out and doesn’t follow the guidelines, your family isn’t going to show up on the front page of the newspaper as being negligent."

A couple of West York residents on Tuesday urged their district to "take the lead" with its own decision and allow families to comply with guidelines in place.

But Northeastern high school Principal Matthew Gay said it wouldn't be that easy to police hundreds of parents at game, many of whom might object to schools representing a government agency enforcing mask-wearing.

"We all shop at stores and we all visit places where if you're wearing a mask you’re in the minority and people look at you and call you sheep — or at least think it," he said.