Photos by Josephine May

Hiawatha High School’s Memorial Stadium.

The Hiawatha School Board met Monday night and after hearing from local health officials decided to reopen football games to the general public.

Including the JV game Monday, the school has hosted two home games and had thus far kept the varsity game closed to the general public — instead offering each football, band, dance and cheer student a specific number of tickets for their family and friends. This ensured that the number of spectators was kept low for social distancing purposes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS Athletic Director Kim Lillie said that additional tickets were allowed for the Sept. 4 home varsity game due to Senior Night, but this week’s upcoming home game against Riverside only four tickets would be allowed if they followed the game protocol released at the beginning of the season.

Superintendent Lonnie Moser said even though attendance numbers may not have been as significant as a normal football game, he still noticed people not really social distancing and that the middle section of the home bleachers was still pretty packed.

Board President Tom Simmer said he had been contacted by some district patrons who were unhappy they couldn’t attend games. Other board members agreed and said they hated to limit numbers, but wanted to start the season with caution.

Moser said that’s why the board was meeting more often, to re-evaluate the situation and they could make changes as necessary.

“We make the best decisions to our schools can stay open as long as possible,” he said.

Health officials present at the meeting were Hiawatha Community Hospital providers Jodi Twombly and Danielle Jagells, along with district nurse Erin Wenger.

Twombly recommended wearing masks — even outside — to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“You can still social distance with a mask if you don’t want to get caught up in a quarantine,” she said, noting that if all parties have masks on the likelihood of spreading COVID-19 is 1 percent.

Quarantining is required if someone is exposed to a person who tested positive — ranging from 10-14 days, depending upon when exposed. This can create a huge domino effect for students and district staff — something that school officials are hoping to avoid by requiring mask usage.

The situation is no different at a football game, the health officials stated. And, people are becoming more used to being asked to wear masks. Wenger also told the board that the students — all ages — have adapted to mask usage as well and there are “mask breaks” worked into the schedules.

Following much discussion, it was the general consensus of the board to reopen football games to the public — however masks will be required upon entry. District passes will also be accepted. Any child under the age of eighth grade must be accompanied by an adult. Patrons are asked to provide their own masks.

The discussion turned to other activities — such as volleyball, which is also restricted to a specific number of tickets for each student to allow family and friends to attend. Health officials gave a recommendation to keep attendance there limited, as it was indoors.

The board decided to keep volleyball limited to tickets upon entry — district passes cannot be used. Temperatures are taken by an iPad upon entry. Cross country will remain limited to immediate family with masks recommended if social distancing cannot be maintained. Again, children under the age of eighth grade need to be accompanied by an adult. There are currently no home girls tennis meets scheduled.

It was also the recommendation of the health officials that school remain in session on-site currently, due to low numbers in the county. Twombly advised that the hospital will be receiving the “rapid result” tests within the next week. However, they are 85 percent accurate for negative testing. She said if the test comes back positive, then it’s accurate, but if someone with two or more symptoms tests negative, then another test will be conducted with results not available for two-three days.

The hospital is working on staffing for its COVID clinic in preparation for the fall as more people are showing symptoms — which require testing. She said, that unfortunately, the Coronavirus symptoms are much the same as many other seasonal viruses or even some allergy symptoms. And as fall progresses into winter, there will be influenza cases popping up as well — also offering very similar symptoms.

Each school has a temperature kiosk to record staff and student temperatures upon entry and again halfway through the day. School staff is also monitoring other symptoms that may occur.

The School Board will meet again at 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 28 to re-evaluate any situations brought before the board.

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