They are still learning and doing the best they can, Hillsboro Athletic Director Dave Dietrick and high school principal Joe Turner told the board of education when they made a special COVID-19/athletics presentation at Monday’s board meeting.
Two of the biggest differences this year, school officials said, are that crowds are much smaller at athletic events due to state mandates and the vast majority of the student body is not able to attend games if they are not participating.
“The biggest difference is the adjustment that has to be made by the (student-athletes’) peers,” superintendent Tim Davis said. “We have a lot of the student body staying at home on Friday nights because they’re not allowed to come to the games, and that’s tough on our kids.”
Dietrick and Turner said that the Frontier Athletic Conference that Hillsboro is a member of stipulated that visiting teams are to be given two tickets per visiting players and cheerleaders, and bands are not allowed to travel to away games.
Ticket allotments for Hillsboro fans at home games vary according to the contest venue size and the number of those participating, they said. Family members are permitted two tickets for varsity football, four for jayvee football, four for middle school football, three for varsity soccer, four for jayvee soccer, four for high school volleyball, and three for middle school volleyball.
Dietrick said the school is limited to 15 percent of capacity in any of its venues. He said that football families are only permitted two tickets because there are about 50 players on the team, plus cheerleaders and band members, plus the other team brings several players and cheerleaders. But he also said that not everyone can attend games, and in those cases the extra tickets are allotted to the local families, starting with the seniors and working down.
He said that since the middle school gym is the smallest venue, sometimes it is emptied of seventh-grade fans before the eighth-grade fans enter the facility. In those cases, he said, surfaces are wiped down and other areas cleaned between games.
The athletic director said the number of tickets allotted to Hillsboro fans for home games also depends on how many fans and student-athletes the other school is bringing to the games.
Some of the other safety precautions Hillsboro has implemented for home games, Turner said, include:
* Hand sanitizer is available at multiple locations in each venue.
* All participants’ temperatures are checked prior to practice, transportation and competition.
* For participants, all student-athletes not actively participating in the event must wear a mask and be spaced six feet apart from other participants not in the contest.
* Water bottles may not be shared.
* For spectators, masks must be worn at all times during the event, regardless of the venue, and regardless of how far they separated from others.
* Spectators must sit with their family group in pods, separated in distance by six feet.
Dietrick noted that the only locker rooms being used are for football, and those are being used as sparingly as possible.
“We’re still learning and trying to get through it. We’re doing the best we can,” Dietrick said.
As for how COVID-19 will impact winter athletics, Dietrick said those making the rules — primarily the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio High School Athletic Association — have not yet provided updates.
“How’s it going to affect basketball? We don’t know, but it’s going to affect it,” he said.
Davis noted that the county’s superintendents and school nurses have both been meeting separately on a weekly basis with the Highland County Health Department. He said health commissioner Jared Warner and his staff have been great to work with.
In his report to the board, Davis said the new auditorium is coming along with completion anticipated for the second week of January.
“It’s going to be real exciting,” he said. “We’re just hoping we can have a large gathering by then so we can fill it to capacity.”
He said there have been a few setbacks with Everetts Way, the new road that will connect the high school/middle school to SR 247. He said there is still some excavation to do on the last 15 or 20 feet where the new road connects to SR 247, but “hopefully in the next couple weeks we’ll be at a point where we’re going to see where the pavement goes.”
He said there will be additional parking in the auditorium area and that the “back of the school is going to have a whole different look and feel.”
During the public participation part of the meeting, local resident Herb Day said that due to the recent and unexpected passing of a son, he and his wife are now raising grandchildren who are afraid to walk to their bus stop in town. He asked if another bus stop could be added. Board president Bill Myers said the board would look into the issue and “try to figure something out.”
The board approved a long list of supplemental contracts, a large portion of them for those coaching or directing fall activities. Davis said there was a delay in presenting the list to the board while administrators worked out an agreement with the Hillsboro Education Association in the event that seasons are put on hold or cancelled due to COVID-19 or some other issue. He said the agreement says that if a season or event is completed in its entirety, supplemental will contracts will be paid in full; if practice gets started then the season is halted before games start, 33 percent of the contracts will be paid; and if the season has already started and is then halted, 66 percent of the contracts will be paid.
“Basically it gives us a chance not to pay the entire thing if we haven’t completed the season,” Davis said.
At a previous board meeting, Davis said the school had to pay entire supplemental contracts for winter and spring last school year even though school was dismissed due to the virus in March.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.