State Board reinforces gov's order: only 10 spectators at events

Posted at 4:36 PM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 16:00:24-05

This article was originally published by Sami Edge in Idaho Ed News.

In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the State Board of Education passed a resolution directing local school boards to restrict crowds to 10 spectators or fewer at sporting events and other extracurricular actives.

The directive isn’t new — it reiterates a statewide “Stage 2 Stay Healthy” order from Gov. Brad Little from Nov. 14 that carries the force of law. The limit to gathering sizes does not apply to classroom instruction, but it does apply to crowds at school events.

Board members say the Governor’s mandate wasn’t being enforced universally. The resolution cites media reporting on districts that didn’t comply with the crowd limits, or physical distancing and mask requirements. Board member Emma Atchley, of Ashton, said at the meeting that she’s seen crowds of more than 10 people on the sidelines at her granddaughter’s basketball games.

“There is no enforcement of masks requirements or anything and this occurs at several of the districts in our area,” Atchley said. “So if our first priority is the safety of students and the reduction of the COVID virus, we must require our districts to enforce the state rules.”

Facebook video from a Dietrich vs. Butte County basketball game from earlier this month shows crowds of far more than 10 people in the stands.

The State Board’s resolution reminds superintendents that if they actively chose to ignore the Governor’s health order they could open themselves up to lawsuits. State lawmakers gave limited civil immunity to school districts in a special session this August — at the behest of school districts, the State Board of Education and Gov. Brad Little — granting them some protection from COVID-19 related lawsuits. But “willful disregard of any health order could result in the loss of the limited immunity,” State Board staff wrote in a memo accompanying Thursday’s resolution.

State Board President Debbie Critchfield said the resolution is a call to action.

“We are asking people to have fidelity to the staging at this time, as we work through some of these issues,” Critchfield said.

Prior to Thursday’s board meeting Critchfield and State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra participated in a call with Idaho superintendents and Gov. Brad Little to discuss the spectator limits. Critchfield said most superintendents she’s spoken to are not opposed to the Governor’s desire to limit crowds, but many would like to see flexibility around allowing parents to watch school activities in a safe manner.

Little told the educators he would be willing to consider proposed changes related to youth activities, Critchfield said, but did not promise any changes to the “Stay Healthy” order. Critchfield said that she will be working with educators in the coming days to submit a proposal to the Governor’s office for consideration.