The Fairhope Pirates defeated the Spanish Fort Toros Thursday during their home football opener at W. C. Majors Field, but public officials have raised concerns about the disregard for social distancing measures intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.
In a strongly worded statement Friday afternoon, Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler said he was “very disappointed” in the lack of compliance shown by students and parents from both teams when it came to wearing masks and maintaining an appropriate level of social distance.
“I am considering what next steps we will take to comply with [Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s] orders, to protect our teams and protect our community,” Tyler said in a statement. “After witnessing the lack of leadership from parents firsthand, I suspect this game will not be the only one in the state lacking compliance this week but Baldwin County Public Schools will not tolerate this behavior.”
As Lagniappe has reported, Baldwin County Public Schools (BCBE) announced last week that the capacity at all sporting events would be reduced to 50 percent — a limit that was managed through digital ticket sales. Around 3,000 tickets were sold for Thursday’s game at the 6,000-seat stadium.
Last week, Tyler said it would be “impossible” to completely enforce some of the guidelines but the school wanted to make sure fall sports could move forward in the safest manner possible. On Friday, he suggested BCBE could consider more strict measures if there continues to be issues with compliance.
“We had already developed additional restrictions which we are ready to implement. These would include the further reduction in capacity, discipline of students, denial of entry and the cancellation of games,” Tyler said. “Before issuing any new directives, I am waiting to see how the hundreds of other games across the South handle these challenges tonight.”
In addition to school officials, Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson also chimed in to express disappointment in how parents, students and other spectators responded to the protocols put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. She noted that W. C. Majors Field is a city-owned facility, and said the city would need to work with BCBE to “strictly enforce” the state’s mask mandate “for the season to continue.”
Across the Bay, the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) also saw its first kickoff of the high school football season with a clash between Williamson High School and LeFlore High School. In a statement to Lagniappe, MCPSS spokesperson Rena Philips said, for the most part, the parents and students at Ladd Peebles Stadium on Thursday adhered to the rules set by the school system.
“From what I saw, the majority of our fans were following social distancing requirements and wearing masks, and I think most of them were excited to be there,” Philips said. “A lot of the people I encountered at the game were parents and they want their children to be able to continue to play this season.”
Instead of limiting capacity at Ladd-Peebles by a specific number or percentage, MCPSS based its capacity plan on social distancing between groups. Family members who live in the same household were able to sit together, but every other row was taped off and groups had to be spaced at least 6 feet from one another.
A Lagniappe reporter at the game saw some spectators not wearing masks, but most were sitting with their family groups and school officials were screening entrants to make sure they were wearing masks as they entered the stadium.
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