By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Newkirk Public Schools (NPS) re-entered the classroom Aug. 13, and Tiger football and Lady Tiger softball games are well underway. While the games themselves are running as normal, there are also many changes to the athletic activities, as NPS has initiated a COVID-19 plan to keep both the athletes and fans safe and healthy.
Although social distancing guidelines apply to both sports, the new protocols mostly affect football games, due to a higher gathering of both teams.
“Football is the biggest issue. Softball is social distancing already, so that is not as big of a problem,” said NPS Superintendent Scott Kempenich. “Football is a packed house, so this is to make sure everyone is safe.”
There will be hand sanitizer at the gates, and gate workers are required to wear gloves and masks. Attendees are asked to have correct change to help limit currency exchange, and are also asked to park on their respective side of the stadium.
Many places require masks to be worn in public to help lessen the spread of COVID-19, and while school officials are not requiring masks to be worn at athletic events, they are recommended, especially at concession stands and restrooms. There are also portable restrooms where masks are not required.
Restrooms will be thoroughly cleaned prior to the game, and masks must be worn when using public restrooms.
Fans are asked to follow social distancing guidelines in the stands. That includes sitting as a family, or bringing portable seating to the games, such as lawn chairs. Newkirk fans can sit on the north side of the field, and away fans on the south side of the field. However, they must be in the grass, and are not allowed on the track.
Because of social distancing, cheerleaders and bands from opposing teams will not be present. However, Newkirk cheerleaders and band manners will still be present. The band will be situated on the south end of the track on the home side, to offer more space for social distancing. The Newkirk band will perform the fight songs for the opposing team so both teams will have their school spirit.
Likewise, the Newkirk cheerleaders and band will not be traveling to away games.
One hallmark of sporting activities is a postgame hand shake. Due to the risk of COVID-19 by contact, that will not be allowed; however, coaches are allowed to provide an alternative sportsmanship activity.
Fans are asked to leave the stands quickly following the game, and are not allowed on the field or track. Lights will be turned off about 10 minutes following the game.
The protocols have been set in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will continue through the season.
“The goal for us is so our athletes can finish the season,” said NPS Athletic Director Kevin Engel. “We want the school to be as normal as possible, and the community to be healthy and safe, and we want to do what we can to ensure the kids have a great school year.”