When Laurel High School hosts its first home football game of the 2020 season on Friday, it will do so with fans and students cheering from the stands — like in years past.
The school on Friday finalized a plan that would circumvent Gov. Tom Wolf's recommendation on capacity limits of 250 people for outdoor gatherings. That recommendation, in reference to a football game, considers all coaches, players, officials and game personnel in the 250 capacity number. After a federal judge last week ruled the order unconstitutional, the governor's office asked school districts to voluntarily enforce the 250-person recommendation.
"We had this planned a week in advance," Superintendent Len Rich said. "We will see how this goes. We'll make adjustments as needed for the next week."
The plan for Friday's game against Riverside is similar to how it handled outdoor graduation. Laurel's plan includes considering four separate venues, meaning up to 1,000 people — including those players, coaches and officials — could be at Friday's home opener. The school plans to consider the field, bandstand, home bleachers and away bleachers all as separate entities with maximum capacities of 250 people each.
Every senior football player, cheerleader and band member was awarded four tickets, while all other underclassmen received two. Riverside was distributed 100 tickets to distribute however the school saw fit. There will be no tickets sold at the gate on Friday.
The plan could be changed or updated for Laurel's next home game in terms of increasing capacity.
"What we're going to have to figure out is what is our maximum capacity relative to social distancing is," Rich said, noting the 250- and 25-person limits are null. "The masking is still in and the social distancing is still in."
For those unable to watch the game live, Laurel will stream it on the school's YouTube channel. A link can be found on the district's website.
The field, known as Venue 1, is "restricted to players, coaches, cheerleaders, officials and other designated staff." All of these people will enter and exit through the main gate from the access road. Laurel had 35 players on its roster at the beginning of the season.
The second venue is the band shelter, portable bleachers and other areas designated as the outdoor classroom. This area is reserved for the Laurel band, auxiliary performers, advisers, directors and designated event staff. Venue 3 is the home bleachers and Venue 4 is the away bleachers.
Should the district receive updated guidance from the governor’s office, Health Department, Department of Education, PIAA, or WPIAL, the it will adjust its plans.
Laurel also announced a plan for allowing fans into its gymnasium for volleyball games. One side of bleachers will be open for Laurel fans in one section and visitors in another. Seniors will receive four tickets, two tickets for all underclassmen and 10 complimentary tickets for the visiting team for a total of 50 fans.
Ellwood City's school board on Monday enacted a similar plan to allow up to 1,000 people into its homecoming football game on Friday, which equates to a fourth of the capacity at Helling Stadium in Ewing Park. New Castle also announced Monday it was giving senior football players three tickets and two tickets to underclassmen players, members of the band, drill team, flag line, Candy Canes and members of the opposing team, who will sit on the visiting side of Taggart Stadium, which has a 7,200 seating capacity.