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Following KSHSAA decision, parents return to stands for winter-sports competitions

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 10:42 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 at 10:42 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020: Thursday night was the first for Kansas parents and guardians to sit in the stands to support their children after the Kansas State High School Activities Association reserved a decision that didn’t allow any spectators to attend winters-sports competitions for participants in middle school and high school. With the reversed decision, two parents or guardians per participating family are allowed in the stands.

“Means everything. My wife and I, we’ve never missed a game, home or away, said Jared Wilson, father of a high school basketball player at Wichita East High School.

Emily Thengvall, the mother of three boys who play junior varsity or varsity basketball at Kapaun Mt. Carmel said the most impactful way to watch their gams is in-person, in the stands.

“Several times, one of my sons was looking up at his dad, and my husband is able to signal to him, ‘don’t worry, it’s okay,’” she said. “All of those things are really, really special.”

Thengvall was among many parents watching and waiting for a KSHSAA decision about parents being able to attend games.

“Every single meeting from beginning to end. They were long. They were grueling,” she said.

Like many parents, Thengvall is thankful that the decision-making board reversed course.

“If I could write every single one of them a ‘thank you’ note, I would,” she said.

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020:

It’s the latest win for parents statewide of student-athletes as the Kansas High School Activities Association reversed its decision that didn’t allow any spectators, including parents and guardians to attend winter-sports competitions for participants in middle school and high school. The board overturned that decision Tuesday (Dec. 8), deciding now to allow two spectators per family at middle and high school competitions this winter.

No more than two parents or guardians per family will be allowed to attend competitions, starting Thursday, December 10.

“I’ve been watching this and trying to positively advocate for the decision to be back in the hands of local districts,” said Emily Thengvall.

Emily Thengvall has three sons who play basketball at Kapaun Mt. Carmel.

Despite the KSHSAA Board of Directors’ motion Tuesday to allow only two tickets per participating family, Thengvall is still at the mercy of local school boards and health departments who could limit that attendance further.

“I really do believe that individual districts and schools can make those decisions and I don’t believe that one size fits all,” said Thengvall.

Bill Faflick, KSHSAA executive director said, “The schools felt as if by the action today through their representatives that smaller crowds would be easier to manage. In some communities, they have the ability to say we’re not going to have crowds at all.

Following the meeting, Faflick said the threat of community spread is still significant and COVID-19 numbers are at all-time highs.

“It’s really important that we never lose sight of that data,” said Faflick.

“The questions still remain, half of my boys games are going to be played in USD 259 in Wichita public schools,” said Thengvall. “And as of Thursday night, we have a game over at Heights and I don’t know if I’ll be permitted in.”

Wednesday morning, she got her answer. with Wichita Public Schools announcing it will follow the two-parent allowance. While districts across Kansas are allowed to let two parents per participating family into competitions, they’re allowed to enforce tighter restrictions.

In November, the Clay County school district decided that it would not allow spectators at winter activities.

“Our positivity rate in our county was extremely high,” Clay County Superintendent Brett Nelson explained. “And we made the decision not to allow spectators at athletics or activities until Dec. 14 where we would reevaluate.

Nelson said at the time, the risk of moving students to remote learning was too high.

“In coordination with our county health officials was that we don’t want to chance spectators jeopardizing the ability of our kids to be educated on-site five days a week,” he said.

Even with KSHSAA’s recent decision, the district’s main priority is still education, Nelson said.

“I know that our board will consider the recommendations by KSHSAA, what that means for us locally, what that means for our kids and our parents that are competing in athletics and activities,” he said.

Salina’s school district has already decided to allow spectators at some winter competitions.

“We took a look at a lot of guidelines that were set in place through KSHSAA, through our Saline County health department, and just agreed upon that we think we can pull this off in a safe manner for our kids,” Salina Central High School Athletic Director Greg Maring said.

Other districts across the state are continuing to make decisions based on their own community situations.

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