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With high school athletics starting back competitions this week, the Elmore County Board of Education released its set of guidelines for how schools should handle their home events. Superintendent Richard Dennis said all schools will need to review the latest guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) in order to educate students and fans on the expectations for behavior at games.

The list states all fans are expected to avoid close contact with others and maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or greater. When physical distancing cannot be maintained, facial coverings should be worn. 

The guidelines for wearing a mask are very specific in the release and are based on the current order of the State Health Officer. 

“Each person shall wear a mask or other facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth at all times when within 6 feet of a person from another household,” the release states. “All fans will be expected to wear a facial covering during entrance and exit to the stadium, while visiting the concession stand or visiting the restroom.”

In the stands, individuals from different households are also expected to remain 6 feet apart at all times. That guideline is expected to have a major impact on how many tickets each school can sell.

While Dennis said there is no specific standard for all schools to follow, he does expect a reduced amount of ticket sales at each school. He said events will be reduced to less than 50% capacity in most cases for both football and volleyball events.

“As far as how many people get in, every stadium is different,” Dennis said. “It depends on how much they can bring in and still socially distance. I can’t say how you can do it for every school. You have to look at how many people you can bring in depending on how big the stadium is.”

The guidelines also encourage online ticket sales when possible and refers to the host school’s website for information on buying tickets.

The county has ordered a camera for each school to assist in broadcasting each game on the NFHS Network, a subscription-based streaming service. Dennis said he expects those services to be set up by Week 1 or 2.

Sideline access is also expected to be more restricted at all the schools. Anyone, outside of the players in uniform, will need to have a sideline pass in order to have access to the field, including school personnel.

Cheerleaders will still be allowed on the sidelines to cheer during the game, limited from the 10-yard line to the back of the end zone. In some cases, cheerleaders will split into two groups to be on each end of the field.

Bands will still perform in the stands but will be expected to wear facial coverings while entering and exiting the stadium. They are also to maintain social distancing inside the stadium if facial coverings cannot be worn. Bands will still have the option to perform on the field at halftime.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.