To fight COVID-19, the Wake County school system will require student-athletes to wear face coverings and will limit spectators at athletic events to immediate family members of the home team.
In an update Tuesday, Wake said that allowing spectators from visiting teams would be very difficult to manage during the pandemic. The district said it would require the home team’s school to coordinate with the visiting team to determine who’d be eligible for any remaining tickets.
“With multiple contests and activities often taking place on one campus at the same time, the host school would be required to screen potentially hundreds of spectators across multiple events and then monitor and enforce compliance with distancing and face covering requirements,” Wake said. “Schools do not have adequate staffing to be able to effectively coordinate these logistics and ensure everyone’s health and safety.”
Due to state rules, attendance will continue to be capped at 100 people for outdoor events and 25 fans for indoor events. Those limited number of tickets will go to the immediate family members of the participants from the home team.
There’s an online petition calling on North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to raise the capacity limit so more family members can see their children compete. The petition had nearly 22,000 signatures as of late Tuesday afternoon.
“Our kids deserve this,” the petition says. “They have endured so much through this pandemic and should at least have their families there to support them.”
Wake had initially banned spectators at athletic events this school year. It led to an outcry from parents, with the district eventually allowing a limited number of spectators at events.
Athletes must wear masks
Also on Tuesday, Wake said that student-athletes will be required to wear face coverings at all times when engaged in practice or competition. Wake, which is the state’s largest school district, says the step was made in consultation with medical and public health guidance due to the current pandemic conditions.
“Appropriate arrangements will be made for mask breaks away from others as necessary, but athletes may not remove their face coverings during competition,” Wake says.
The district says requests for disability-related accommodations may be submitted to the school principal and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“WCPSS will continue to provide reasonable accommodations that do not pose a threat to the health or safety of others to the extent required by law,” according to the update. “However, at this time WCPSS has determined that student-athletes who do not wear a face covering during indoor activities, or who do not wear one during outdoor activities where there is close contact between student-athletes, pose a threat to the safety of others and therefore cannot be permitted.”
Middle school sports starting
Wake County is resuming in-person classes next week. Later this month, Wake will begin middle school athletics that had been suspended until now.
There won’t be any interscholastic completions this school year at middle schools. Instead, there will be practices, workouts and, for some sports, intramural competitions.
Wake is revising the middle school schedule for sports again because of the delay in returning to in-person classes:
▪ Fall Sports — Feb. 22-March 19: Volleyball, Girls’ Soccer, Football and Cheerleading
▪ Spring Sports — March 22-April 30: Softball, Boys’ Track and Field, Girls’ Track and Field, Boys’ Soccer (Schools with existing school-sponsored baseball teams may have on-campus activities during this season if approved by the principal.)
▪ Winter Sports — May 3-May 21: Girls Basketball, Boys Basketball and Cheerleading