Little calls for more viewers at high school sporting events

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Governor Brad Little announced Wednesday that he was directing the State Board of Education to allow more spectators to attend high school sporting events.

Governor Brad Little at an October 26 press conference recalling Idaho on Stage 3 of its reopening plan. Sami Edge / IdahoEdNews

Little said he based the decision on the decrease in nationwide COVID-19 cases and hospital stays.

“All of our decisions related to the Idaho Rebounds Plan are based on detailed metrics related to virus activity and its impact on our healthcare system,” Little said in a written statement. “Thanks to the good efforts the people of Idaho are taking to slow the spread of the virus in our communities, we are seeing continued decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”

While he asked the state board to revise its high school track and field schedule, Little did not provide any details about how this would affect current viewer limits. The State Board’s current track and field schedule allows any athlete to invite two spectators with some restrictions and masking requirements.

Debbie Critchfield, president of the state board of education, said education groups would meet Thursday to discuss details of the new athletics schedule and she hopes to put new rules in place within 48 hours.

Critchfield said the group will likely think about the capacity of the gym and how more students can participate in games. Much of the current plan has been designed so that sports students can invite parents or family members.

“I’m excited to see that we can get more (spectators) into the gym as we realize that school districts, school boards … everyone in the process has been able to manage their crowds and manage the things that they do.” Have been asked to do, ”Critchfield said.

The current sports schedule contains penalties for districts that violate the eligibility requirements. Critchfield is aware of at least one warning letter sent to a school for violating these rules, but said the majority of districts followed the necessary rules to allow two spectators per athlete.

College sports and participating in games and games were a contentious issue for schools, athletes and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

The problem took root at the Statehouse even before Little was announced on Wednesday.

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, and Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls sponsor House Concurrent Resolution 2. If HCR 2 were passed, it would increase the number of spectators at public gatherings, including school sports.

This resolution could go to a vote on Thursday morning.

Even Little’s own position in relation to the crowd as a college sport seems to be developing.

During an AARP-Idaho-sponsored city hall telephone meeting on Tuesday, Little raised concerns about indoor sports.

“Indoor high school sports are the perfect petri dish for spreading,” Little said during the call on Tuesday.

He told callers his goal was to open up the sport to more viewers as the number of cases improved later in the school year.

He never suggested that these changes could be started just 24 hours after the town hall was packed up.

Ehardt and Crane did not immediately respond to the request for comment. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Idaho Education News reporter Sami Edge contributed to this article.

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered government and education in Idaho for more than a decade. Since 2011, he has followed every legislative period from hammer to hammer. Clark is co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert, which was published Friday. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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