Eastern Lancaster County School District on Monday increased its spectator limits at extracurricular events to 33% capacity, which translates roughly to 148 people indoors and 990 people outdoors.
The school board unanimously approved the measure, which originally called for increasing spectator limits to 25% capacity. The board amended that measure due in part to the 30-minute public comment session at the start of the meeting, which largely consisted of parents of student-athletes advocating for spectator limits to be increased to 50%.
The nine-member board discussed the measure for about 45 minutes before voting.
Up to this point, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and its member schools have been abiding by Gov. Tom Wolf’s directives for conducting sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, including limiting gatherings to 250 people for outdoor events and 25 for indoor events.
However, those limits have been contested in recent weeks. On Sept. 14, a federal judge in western Pennsylvania ruled that Wolf’s limits on gatherings violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right of assembly.
Also in recent weeks, a bill passed by both the state House and Senate gives individual school districts the power to determine how many people attend school sporting events this fall.
However, Wolf officially vetoed that bill Monday afternoon. Soon after, the General Assembly said it would try to override the veto.
“A number of parents and fans have shown up tonight in the auditorium,” Elanco resident Nicki Good said during the public comment session. “They understand the importance of tonight’s vote. They have showed up for their community, school board and their student-athletes. ... I truly hope everyone gets what they’re asking for. I’m speaking directly to girls volleyball: Our situation is unique.”
Of all Garden Spot’s fall sports, girls volleyball is the only one that is indoors. And Wolf’s cap of 25 people indoors makes a volleyball match rather challenging, limiting the gymnasium to players on the court, coaches, a referee and a few game staff, with bench players remaining in the hallway.
The limits on spectators has left many schools across the state scrambling to figure out how to livestream events.
“Our (volleyball) girls are scrimmaging right now,” Carla O’Neill said during the public comment session. “We have no sound, we have no score, but we got to watch them on a little screen. It sucks.”
Elanco Superintendent Dr. Robert Hollister said spectators will still be required to wear masks and maintain social-distancing at events.
Garden Spot’s golf, girls tennis and football teams already have begun their regular seasons. Field hockey begins its regular season Wednesday at Solanco. Boys and girls soccer and girls volleyball begin regular season play Thursday, with both the boys soccer and girls volleyball team in home contests.