Parent Robert Ferguson spoke to Moshannon Valley School Directors Monday evening, asking the district release restrictions on in-person spectators at home winter sports contests.

HOUTZDALE — A district resident requested Moshannon Valley School Board provide options to parents who want to view home winter sporting matches in person.

Robert Ferguson told directors at Monday’s meeting he was speaking on behalf of parents who believe the district should revise restrictions currently in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 and allow a limited amount of in-person spectators at each home game like surrounding school districts have.

“Shame on you for not doing your job to give parents an option to watch their children and to recognize their hard work and dedication,” he told the board during the public comment session of its meeting.

Ferguson said he believes the board should release confinements currently in place that stops spectators from attending home games.

“I am disappointed you do not have fans in the stands. There are several home games left, all I am asking for is options,” he said, adding he believes parents at games would provide added support for players.

The high school gymnasium seats 540 people. If the district would follow recommendations from the state Department of Health, it could allow 10 percent of that number or a total of 54 persons into home games. Ferguson said he believes parents would be willing to take turns if they could attend some games in person.

“I am just looking for a way to watch my daughter play basketball,” he said.

Board President Cassandra Kitko said the board’s primary worry is that students and staff stay healthy and COVID-19 numbers in the district remain low.

“The board’s main concern is keeping students safe. (If the board allows in-person spectators) we will have people coming in and we don’t know whether that is safe or if they have been tested.”

District Superintendent Dr. John Zesiger said at the present he recommends the school district continue to follow the athletics’ health and safety plan currently in place that prohibits in-person spectators.

He told The Progress following the meeting the school district has not permitted spectators at its 2020-21 indoor winter sporting events.

“The district is following the state’s 10 percent capacity for indoor events, and the fact that Moshannon Valley High School’s gymnasium is one of the smaller gyms in the area with seats for 540, we have erred on the side of safety,” Dr. Zesiger said.

He said a 10 percent capacity is quickly reached.

“With players for two teams, cheerleaders, coaches, game workers, officials, trainers and others, we reach that 10 percent quickly. We did permit families of seniors to attend the teams’ senior night events, but the district is really just trying to eliminate any exposure that potentially jeopardizes in-person instruction. Whether our procedures have been working, or it has been just plain luck, Moshannon Valley High School’s students have been attending in-person for learning for 103 of 107 days with only two of those missed days due to COVID-19 closures.”

He said parents and fans to have an opportunity to see the teams play games using a free broadcasting system.

“The district has provided for all home events to be broadcast free on the National Federation of State High School Associations Network. The school board knew we would have frustrated parents so the school district has shouldered the expense so that all families and fans, home and away, can view home events at no expense.

“The board and the school district realize it is not the same as being there and both the administration and school board appreciate the frustration that families have experienced by not attending in-person. Many board members have athletes themselves and many more had Class of 2020 seniors who missed an array of events, so they understand first-hand what district families are experiencing,” he explained.

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