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Ohio Grants School Districts More Fans at Events

Andy Berg

A number of school districts in Ohio approached state authorities about COVID-19 restrictions, asking that they be allowed to host more fans at games.  

According to records obtained by the Associated Press, one in six Ohio school districts asked the state for permission to add spectators at fall events, exceeding the limits set by governor Mike DeWine in last month’s sports order.

The Health Department apparently approved all of the requests quickly, often on the same day they were received.

Related: AD Pauses Football Game, Asks Crowd to Spread Out 

“Social distancing is easily accomplished in our bleachers at 20% capacity,” J. Edward Dickens, the superintendent of Waverly schools in southern Ohio, said in an Aug. 28 request.

DeWine’s Aug. 19 order prohibits spectators at school events to family members and individuals close to the athletes. The order set seating at 15 percent.

Many districts asked for more seating so that seniors could attend games. They also asked that “pods” of family members be allowed to sit closer together with each pod remaining six feet from others.

“With this limit, we will not be able to support every athlete or band member participating in a game,” Anita Jorney-Gifford, athletic director at Northwestern Local Schools in Wayne County, wrote in the district's Aug. 21 request. “We know the importance of family in the stands to cheer and support their child.”

Many districts said they planned to use portable bleachers, space on tracks around football fields, and other nearby grass areas to promote social distancing among fans.

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