Board votes to modify gating criteria, permit spectators at winter sports and activities

The decision allows two spectators to attend per participant at winter sports and activities

The+board+meets+via+Zoom+to+discuss+gating+criteria+for+winter+sports+at+a+board+meeting+Monday%2C+Nov.+23.+

By Ben Wieland

The board meets via Zoom to discuss gating criteria for winter sports at a board meeting Monday, Nov. 23.

Ben Wieland, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

At a special meeting over Zoom, the school board voted 5-2 to modify the gating criteria for winter sports to allow two spectators per athlete at games. 

Spectators will be seated by household groups and required to follow masking and social distancing rules while in attendance. 

The decision overrode the district’s previously set gating criteria, which prevented any spectators from attending games while in the orange zone. The changes will primarily affect wrestling, boys basketball, and girls basketball.  

The board decided that limited game attendance could be safely managed. Board member Ashley Spaulding explained her decision to permit spectators.

“If we can enforce mask wearing and absolutely enforce social distancing, I hope our community can do this safely,” Spaulding said.

If we can enforce mask wearing and absolutely enforce social distancing, I hope our community can do this safely.”

— board member Ashley Spaulding

While a majority did vote in favor of the change, the decision was not unanimous. Board member Stephanie Makalous advocated for sticking with the gating criteria and providing livestreams of all events. 

“We’ve had to shut down schools. We don’t have enough people to even teach our students,” Makalous said. “If we have the technology to give parents another option, I don’t think we should have spectators at all. It sends a message that having sports is more important than having our students in school.” 

Board president Danielle Heikes echoed Makalous’s concerns about separating sports and activities, concerned that the decision might send a concerning message to parents.

“We will be separating learning from our sports and activities,” Heikes said. “I think that’s a dangerous precedent to set.”

I don’t think we should have spectators at all. It sends a message that having sports is more important than having our students in school.”

— board member Stephanie Makalous

Ultimately, though Makalous and Heikes both voted against the motion, the board opted to permit spectators — but made sure to note that if guidelines are not followed, the privilege for spectators to attend events could be taken away from the community. 

“If masking and social distancing doesn’t happen, spectators are done.” Spaulding said. 

Superintendent Frank Harwood shared this concern in his initial presentation to the board, noting examples from fall sports of parents not following district rules at games. 

“Policing this is not a lot of fun, nor is it easy to do. If people are aware of the rules ahead of time, they should be held responsible for following them.” Harwood said.

The board’s decision could become a moot point if KSHSAA votes to delay the winter sports season at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Livestreaming options were also discussed for spectators who are unable to attend in person, but want to virtually view sporting events. 

According to assistant superintendent Alvie Cater, the main and auxiliary gyms at De Soto are set up to stream games, as is the main gym at Mill Valley. 

However, the streams will be provided with NFHS equipment, so viewers will need to purchase a $11 monthly subscription to NFHS to view events. 

Camera equipment is not set up to stream in the Mill Valley auxiliary gym or any of the district’s middle school gyms, according to Cater, but district technology staff is working with principals to get the necessary equipment for basic streams installed. 

The board’s next scheduled meeting is set for Monday, Dec. 7. 

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