The new school year is approaching, which means high school sports are upon us, but will schools allow full attendance for fans?
Unfortunately, that question has yet to be answered.
Miguel Perez, Squalicum High School principal, said the school is still waiting for guidelines from the state on what is needed to have stands filled with fans but expects a minimal number of fans to be allowed.
Perez said he expects to get an answer from the state in two to three weeks regarding the spectator policy.
Steven Card, Western Washington University athletic director, said Western will continue to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, Washington State Department of Health, and Whatcom County Health Department to decide the safest way to have full attendance for next season.
Perez said there might be a common theme in safety compared to the 2020-2021 season if full fan attendance is not allowed in the 2021-2022 season.
This past school year, student-athletes were only allowed a certain number of guests for each game, and fans had to answer a COVID-19 questionnaire before being cleared to enter events, Perez said.
“The restrictions that I had were having to wear a mask, sitting six feet away from other groups and not being able to attend away games,” said Anthony Smith, a yearly attendee of high school athletics. “I could attend all the home games since I was a family member.”
Card expressed the importance of fans attending games for athletes and community members.
“Fans are a critical part of the event experience,” Card said. “They provide support for the teams, which can have a positive impact on performance. Athletics is part of the entertainment business, and our sporting events provide a safe, healthy environment for fans to enjoy their favorite sports.”
Smith spoke on the community impact of local athletics.
“Local sports events impact the community in a positive way,” Smith said. “Families get to support their student-athletes. It's a win, win situation for everybody.”
Lack of attendance impacted ticket sales, Perez said. Squalicum High School allowed free entry during the pandemic, resulting in funding for school programs like the Associated Student Body to potentially be affected, he said.
Luckily the Bellingham School District was able to make sure school programs were not affected by the pandemic, Perez said.
Perez said there is an emphasis on safety before allowing full attendance to games, but he is hopeful fans will be back as soon as possible.
“It is critical that we get back to having fans at our events,” Card said. “We need to do so in a responsible, safe manner.”
Djouvensky Schlenbaker, Squalicum High School student-athlete, said he is happy there is a chance there will be fans in attendance next season due to seeing how grateful last year's football seniors were when they only had one game with fans in the stands.
“I am excited for fans to be back in the stands; fans just make it feel more like home,” Schlenbaker said.
Juan Baldovinos Jr. is a senior at Western Washington University, majoring in Journalism in the News/ Editorial BA program. Juan is a part of The Front and focuses on news occurring in Whatcom County. When not reporting Juan enjoys spending time with his family, and watching sports. Juan has goals to be a sports journalist. You can contact Juan at firstname.lastname@example.org