Fall sports will move ahead under state guidelines released last week.
The Johnson City Board of Education met Wednesday evening to discuss Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order to allow contact sports during the pandemic.
The governor said state officials have worked closely with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association to “coordinate a framework so that football season and soccer season can begin while keeping student-athletes, staff, and fans safe.”
Lee said the order will give local officials the authority to determine mask requirements and other safety regulations.
Athletic Director Keith Turner said one of the biggest hurdles is “spectator care,” which was a main topic of discussion. He said it will be similar to Science Hill’s graduation in May, which required social distancing and masks. The difference, Turner said, would be “clearer markings and assigned seats.”
“We feel like we can control the crowd that way,” he told the board, adding that there would be two seats between each family.
Turner said access to locker rooms has been “very limited” and masks are still required when entering during training.
Turner said custodial staff are cleaning and “spraying everything daily.” He said custodial staff will “constantly” clean the bathrooms at facilities like Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Turner said Science Hill is planning to do as many pre-sales of tickets as possible.
“That way, you’re not exchanging a whole lot of money at the game,” he said. “If we do sell any, it will be limited to one gate.”
Turner said athletes’ temperatures are being taken before they hit the field. If an athlete is positive for COVID-19, officials will notify the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office and then determine who their contacts were.
If a student is sent home with a high temperature, they are required to be tested for COVID-19. If they test positive, they have to be quarantined before returning.
“The only way they can come back is to have a (negative) test or have a doctor give you a letter that states it’s not related to COVID,” he said.
Turner said there has been some contact in practice, but it “has been limited” so far and most exercises have been spaced out.
Mayor Jenny Brock attended the meeting to address the board. She said they’ve done a “fabulous job” considering decisions throughout the pandemic. She said a slew of city-sponsored events were canceled mainly due to crowd size, making management of spectators key.
Chairman Tim Belisle said he has some concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the county, and the safety protocol of other districts’ sports teams.
He said he’s worried it sends an “inconsistent message” to start school remotely Monday while beginning football with restrictions.
“I’m not making these comments to say I’m against coming back with our contact sports,” he said. “I’m making the comments to make sure everybody understands the risks of our kids actually being exposed potentially.”