NEW BETHLEHEM – State and local regulations regarding attendance at district sporting events consumed much of the discussion at this month’s Redbank Valley School Board meeting.
During the Sept. 8 meeting, board members and spectators listened as district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo outlined the requirements that will govern football, volleyball and soccer as the district’s 2020-2021 fall sports season officially got underway last week.
Regarding varsity football, Mastillo said that state requirements allow no more than 250 people including players, coaches and officials to gather for an outside event. He pointed out that in an effort to maintain that limit, there would be no concessions and only those spectators with tickets would be permitted in the stadium.
In preparation of last Friday’s home opener against Curwensville, Mastillo said there would be no visiting team fans and home fans would be limited to two tickets per senior player, cheerleader, and marching band member.
“Tickets will be issued to the coaches, who will disseminate those tickets to the players,” he said. “The players can choose who gets those two tickets to come watch them.”
Addressing other sporting events, Mastillo said that since soccer does not come close to exceeding the 250-person limit, there are no additional restrictions being imposed at the present time.
Mastillo then addressed varsity volleyball.
“Volleyball is slightly different,” he said. “They are limited to 25 persons in the gymnasium.”
Because this presents a problem accommodating both teams and coaches, he noted further that PIAA recently extended its bench into the hallway. Technically, this means that a team can have a pot of 25 in the gym, and their second stringers or team out in the hallway that can be rotated in. Because of that, however, spectators will not be admitted to the building since the 25-person limit has already been exceeded.
Board member Dee Bell asked Mastillo who sets the limits for outside and inside events.
“President Trump had a rally at Arnold Palmer Airport and he had over 1,000 people there with no social distancing to speak of,” he said. “Why can the higher ups get away with that and we can’t?”
Mastillo said in response that Bell was “asking a question that I have no answer or logic behind.”
Board member Darren Bain asked what other districts were doing. Mastillo explained that Moniteau, DuBois and Slippery Rock have no fans at all; Curwensville has no visiting fans; and Union allows two tickets per senior for each team.
“That’s the only information we were able to obtain,” Mastillo said. He pointed out that his recommendation was in line with common practices. “It also gives us additional [space] for our home fans.”
Bain asked if there was any possibility of live streaming the games. Mastillo said the district was looking into it.
“As of last Friday, we were not capable of doing anything,” he told board members. “I was told that we don’t have the equipment to set up to broadcast.”
The board then turned their attention to youth football.
“If we digress back to a previous meeting, we had made the decision about [not allowing] spectators for youth football,” Mastillo said. “That decision was based on us not allowing fans.”
Mastillo explained that he had received correspondence asking the board to reconsider, and the board ultimately decided to allow the program to follow the same guidelines that were set for school-sponsored events — 250 people including coaches and athletes will be permitted to participate.
Board member Jason Barnett said that the district needs to have a policy in place to make sure attendance never goes over the limit.
“We can’t police every other organization,” he said. “If someone wants to sign [the agreement] and then turn around and not follow the rules, at least then [we] know who to go talk to.”
Bell again raised an issue with the 25-person limit in the gymnasium.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “We have 125 people sitting in the cafeteria at lunch, which is half the square footage of the gym, and we’re worried about 25 people in a gym.”
Bain asked if the board had any leeway.
“So, there’s nothing we can change unless we choose to disregard [the limit]?” he questioned.
Mastillo pointed out that the limit was by order of the governor.
Barnett said that we would “never support anything that doesn’t follow the rules mandated to us.”
During the public concerns portion of the meeting, district resident and volleyball parent Angela Minich voiced her concern about the spectator rule.
“I totally get that you want the safety of the community, but there are nine senior volleyball players,” she said, urging the board to allot two parents for each player. “That would put you above the 25 limit, but the gym is big enough that you can space out 18 parents.”
Board president Bill Reddinger thanked Minich for her input.
“I think each one of us would agree completely with what you’re saying, but we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with what your governor is saying,” he said. “It could affect our funding.”
• Despite some minor technical glitches at the beginning, elementary principal Cheryl McCauley and high school principal Amy Rupp both reported good starts to the new school year.
“We are resolving some technical issues that we had,” McCauley said, noting that teachers seem to be doing well in their classrooms and with remote instruction. “They’re doing very well as far as keeping in touch with parents.”
Rupp concurred, adding that the high school has already seen several students return from outside cyber schools to Redbank’s remote or in-person instruction.
“For the most part, we had a very smooth first week,” she said, explaining that the teachers are “managing well” and keeping a master list in order to be able to communicate with all the students in virtual instruction. “These teachers are working hard and putting in many hours to make sure all their kids’ needs are met. I give them all the kudos.”
• The school board unanimously approved Resolution No. 3 of 2020, the Title IX Resolution.
“This states that we will follow the guidelines of Title IX that are in place,” Mastillo explained, noting that new Title IX law mandates the district have a team in place to investigate any Title IX violations. “It can’t just be investigated by one person. You have to delegate who that person is, and you can’t cross roles and responsibilities.”
• The resignation of special education and sixth through eighth grade life skills teacher Christie Schwilm was accepted effective Sept. 11.
• Board members approved the following hirings: Karen Crawford, special education and sixth through eighth grade life skills teacher at a total cost of $73,710.98; Renee Kusnir as a high school English teacher at a total cost of $57,938.11; Carlee Boyer as a 110-day speech and language pathologist at a total cost of $39,221.64; Patty Van Hise as a highly qualified aide for six-and-a-half hours at a total cost of $14,352.93; Dave Hepler as junior high soccer coach at a total cost of $2,400.97; and Brianna Matthews as junior high cheer advisor at a total cost of $2,185.48.
• Ronald Rankin was approved as a substitute custodial/maintenance worker at an hourly rate of $10.37.