By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The Newkirk Tigers and Lady Tigers basketball teams welcome the Frontier Mustangs Friday evening, Friday, Dec. 4, to start the 2020 – 2021 season in the new gym. Opening in the new gym will be a special opening for the teams, as it will be the first season game in the facility since the last school year. The public is welcome to attend and celebrate with the teams, but there will be some changes, however, as Newkirk Public Schools (NPS) has enacted special social distancing protocols to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Due to the risk of the school going into virtual learning due to the disease, Senior Night will be held at 6 p.m. prior to the game instead of at the end of the season.
The teams held their first game in the new gym Tuesday evening, Feb. 11 for the 2020 Senior Night program. It was soon closed, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and court damage as a result of roof leaks. School administration made the decision to move the basketball and wrestling teams back to Mark Branch Fieldhouse due to needed repairs from the water leaks.
“We have been water testing the roof to determine the severity of the leaks, repairing multiple issues ane are still trying to get multiple issues resolved. We couldn’t control the humidity, and the floor was bowed until about a month ago when it started to lay back down due to the cooler weather,” said NPS Superintendent Scott Kempenich. “We didn’t have a game-regulated floor or closure on multiple other issues, so we didn’t want to have games in there earlier this school year.”
NPS has decided to hold school events in the new gym once more, and asks spectators to follow COVID-19 protocols for the health and safety of the community.
Before attending events in the gym, which includes games and pep assemblies, attendees should conduct a health check for COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, chills, fever or loss of taste or smell. Those with such symptoms are asked not to attend events.
Anyone who has come in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 is asked not to enter the gym for 14 days.
For those attending events, they are strongly recommended to wear face coverings, and families should sit together for social distancing on the east side of the gym, with students on the north side of the facility and the band on the northwest. Elementary students in fifth grade and below should be accompanied by an adult. All attendees are asked to leave as soon as the event is over, and hand sanitizing and other safety protocols should be followed
Opposing fans are asked to sit in the west side.
All gate and concession stand workers will wear masks, and those waiting in line should practice social distancing.
For those not attending, the games will be live-streamed at Newkirktigers.tv.
School officials are happy to open the basketball season in the gym.
“Having the gym open for our athletes and our community is a huge win. However, we’re still in the process of getting the gym completed,” Kempenich said. “We are really excited to be able to play in our amazing gym.”