New athletics plan lets schools fill gyms to 40% capacity

PCourtesy Tony Blakeslee

A new athletics attendance plan will allow schools to fill gyms to 40% capacity, or invite four spectators per student-athlete, whichever is larger.

The State Board of Education finalized the new plan Thursday, responding to a directive from Gov. Brad Little to allow more spectators in youth sports games. Game attendance has been a contentious issue since Little moved Idaho to Stage 2 of the state’s COVID-19 response plan. Stage 2 restricts public gathering sizes to 10 people, a limit that doesn’t apply to education, but did initially apply to school sports games.

After parent outcry, and amid pushback from legislators, Little has granted a number of exceptions for youth sports.

The new athletics plan, provided to EdNews Friday morning, requires spectators wear masks if they’re not seated or physically distanced, and requires home and away crowds enter and exit through separate doors, among other restrictions.

School districts are allowed to have more stringent requirements than the State Board plan, which applies to high school and middle school sports. Participating student athletes, band members and the dance team don’t count toward the 40% capacity mark. Non-participating student athletes do.

The plan also allows members of the student body to attend home games, but requires they wear masks if they are seated closer than 6 feet apart.