Beginning Friday, Collier County Public Schools will expand the number of fans allowed to attend its high school football games.
Players and cheerleaders from visiting teams will be allowed to have two members from their households in the stands. Crowds at the games could nearly double – in their first two weeks of games CCPS schools allowed two tickets for just the home team’s players, cheerleaders and band.
Bands from visiting schools still will not travel to road games.
The Collier school district also will allow some students to attend football games if there is room without going over capacity.
Members of the game participants’ households get first dibs on tickets. If schools can fit more people in the stands without going over their maximum capacity — a number set by the Department of Health that is different at each school — seniors from the home school will be allowed to buy tickets.
The decision was announced Tuesday by CCPS coordinator of interscholastic athletics Mark Rosenbalm. The spectators policy on the CCPS was updated Tuesday afternoon to reflect the changes.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction and getting back to normalcy,” Rosenbalm said. “The more people we can safely put in the stands to support our student athletes the better.”
CCPS made the move to expand crowds with permission from the Department of Health Collier, which directs the school district’s COVID-19 policies.
The Collier school district also is expanding its crowds at volleyball games. Members of the freshmen and junior varsity teams from both schools can be in the gym to watch the varsity game.
Parents of players on the away teams have been allowed to attend volleyball games for the past couple weeks, Rosenbalm said.
The School District of Lee County will not expand its football crowds – not yet, at least. Lee Schools athletic director David LaRosa said football stadiums will remain at 25% capacity but the district will continue to re-evaluate its policy throughout the season.
Tickets for games at Lee schools are first offered to the parents and guardians of players. If there are any remaining without going over 25 percent capacity, those tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
Last week Gov. Ron DeSantis eliminated limits on the operating capacity for businesses throughout the state. All bars and restaurants, which were capped at 50% occupancy, can now open at full capacity.
LaRosa said the Lee County school district would remain cautious after the governor’s announcement. Lee and Collier public schools began football practices and games later than the Florida High School Athletic Association’s allowed state date, opting to wait and see how the coronavirus would affect schools once they opened Aug. 31.
“We’ve been very conservative,” LaRosa said. “It’s something we’ll continually reassess. With COVID-19 we’ve had to make decisions on the run and change from one week to the next.
“One thing we’re going to look at with the governor opening everything up is, is this going to create a spike (in COVID-19 cases).”
Face coverings will continue to be required at Collier and Lee public school athletic events.
As the number of COVID-19 cases in Southwest Florida have gone down, Collier County Public Schools has continued to loosen its fan restrictions.
The district originally planned to bar all spectators at athletic events, announcing that decision on Aug. 20. Two weeks later, CCPS opened up its football games to two people per household for each home game participant.