JEFFERSON — Following a series of meetings between Rock Valley Conference principals, administrators and athletic directors, conference officials have relaxed the rules for upcoming sports seasons to allow a limited number of spectators.
Jefferson schools Superintendent Mark Rollefson outlined the process at a special Jefferson school board meeting last Thursday night, after which the Jefferson board authorized Rollefson to make those decisions on behalf of the district.
Other conference members will be making decisions school-by-school, so the rules may be different from district to district.
Five members of the Jefferson school board assembled for Thursday evening’s special meeting, all of them giving a thumbs up to the new provision and giving Rollefson the authority to move ahead.
“They were comfortable allowing two family members per athlete to attend home athletic events moving forward,” Rollefson said in a follow-up interview Friday morning.
This could very game by game, depending on which team Jefferson was facing on a given day, Rollefson said.
“For some teams, if spectators are present, those schools won’t allow their team to play here,” the superintendent explained.
Following Thursday’s school board assent, the superintendent gave Rollefson the authority to make decisions regarding spectators for the rest of the winter sports season, the rescheduled fall season that follows it and the spring sports season which follows that.
The move follows a dip in COVID-19 numbers across Wisconsin, and the experience districts across the state had playing various sports earlier in the year, which showed very little virus transmission, provided players and fans strictly abided by pandemic protections.
“The athletic directors across the conference overall supported having limited numbers of fans at our indoor events,” Rollefson said. “The principals overwhelmingly agreed as well.”
Following much discussion at the conference level, Rollefson said, the superintendents of the participating districts agreed to the new limits of two family members per athlete.
Spectators will not be limited to members of the athlete’s immediate household, but could extend to grandparents or other close relatives, if that family chooses.
“However, we really want to make sure it’s family members, however, not girlfriends or boyfriends,” Rollefson said.
There will be a reservation system put in place to assure this limit is not exceeded.
All spectators will be required to wear masks and to sit in designated, socially distanced seating.
Depending on the teams involved in each athletic event, there could be additional requirements for spectators for a specific game.
“Some districts will be requiring a temperature check, for example,” Rollefson said.
Meanwhile, one media representative will be allowed per venue, if approved by the districts involved.
After the regular winter season wraps up, teams will go into playoffs, for which the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has set different rules.
The WIAA will be allowing four fans per athlete during playoff games, Rollefson said.
“Having spectators for the rest of our winter season will be a good trial run for the playoffs,” Rollefson said. “By holding spectators to a nominal amount and taking careful precautions, we’ll be able to see how well this works as we prepare for higher levels of competition.”
“I have a lot of confidence that our players and families can handle this in a safe manner,” the superintendent said. “Our teams are excited about the change, to finally be able to have family members at games.”
Rollefson noted that Steve Gee, the Jefferson High School athletic director, and his counterparts in area districts have done a tremendous job in taking on all of the new challenges the pandemic year has wrought and finding safe ways to allow students to continue in athletics.
Rollefson also commended the work of Ray Vance, the commissioner who coordinates the schedules for the conference.
“We really are a model conference, according to officials reports, in terms of how well we’ve abided by COVID-19 rules,” Rollefson said.