By Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland/Somerset)
At some point in life, you, the readers, have walked through a school gymnasium, walked by a high school football stadium, or competed yourself in these venues. You understand the size and capacity of these very large areas.
I suspect the governor has been inside these venues as well more than a few times in his life, which is why his “very strong guidance” limiting these venues – regardless of size – to what amounts to an unrealistic number of participants and attendees is so disturbing.
Further, the acknowledgment from the Department of Health and the Department of Education that they used zero data to draft their “guidance,” only after a right-to-know request was filed, shows the administration takes the trust of the people for granted.
Stopping adults from doing activities is one thing but taking away the dreams of our kids is something else entirely. The governor’s recommendation to shut down high school sports and extracurricular activities only makes sense if you totally remove reason from the equation.
The Wolf Administration’s cookie-cutter limits of no more than 25 people for indoor events and no more than 250 people for outdoor events just does not work for school sports and other school-related activities.
It just doesn’t make sense.
A high school volleyball game with two teams, coaches and referees could easily exceed the 25-person limit for indoor sports with just participants. In fact, some schools are planning to have portions of their teams waiting in other parts of the school until they are called on to play. But as we know, volleyball games are routinely played in those large capacity gymnasiums that can have seating for 1,000 people or more. If a school district elected to open the gymnasium to just 25% of that capacity (250), this would allow for the entire teams to be present as well as family members.
Two high school football teams, including coaches, referees and athletic trainers, usually exceed 100 participants. To be compliant with the 250-person limit for outdoor events, some school districts are left to choose between allowing cheerleaders and marching bands or parents and family members. While we can all acknowledge high school football stadiums range in size, most have seating for thousands of spectators – separated by the football field.
If you are the student athlete, band member or cheerleader, the restrictive mandate means your parents, grandparents, and/or other loved ones won’t be able to watch you play. It means a collegiate representative won’t be there to possibly recruit you or offer an educational scholarship.
If you are the parent or grandparent, you will miss out watching your son or daughter compete.
Gov. Tom Wolf saw the value of allowing local school officials to make decisions about student instruction based on virus cases and other factors unique to their districts. It is just as logical to allow decisions about the sports and activities portion of our children’s educational experience to be local too.
The governor should sign House Bill 2787 and let our school boards, school administrators, parents and students make the best choices for their districts.
House Bill 2787 is on the governor’s desk. It would allow local school districts, or governing body of nonpublic schools, to make the decision whether to hold school sports and extracurricular activities in-person during the 2020-21 school year. With that power comes the responsibility to establish safe protocols and limits for permitting visitors and spectators to attend sports and in-person extracurricular activities; establish protocols for sports consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Considerations for Youth Sports; and methods of ensuring that social distancing and other safety measures are in place for students, staff and spectators.
As a former high school athlete, and father with three children who are active in school sports and activities, I understand the importance of having your family in the stands to cheer you on. I don’t think government should ever be in the way of a student and their family. House Bill 2787 would ensure local decisions, based on local conditions. I hope you can join me in urging Gov. Wolf to sign the bill.
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