PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — The recent amendment to Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 72 is not sitting well with some Pulaski County students and parents.
Just days before the amendment was made, Pulaski County Public Schools announced that cheerleaders and band members would be considered participants in high school football games, meaning they would travel for away games and get two tickets for parents/guests at home games.
This decision made PCPS among only a handful of districts across the state to implement this, and Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers said there was positive support from neighboring districts.
The amendment to Executive Order 72 now classifies cheerleaders and band members as “spectators.”
“It was a little discouraging to get that [notification] and realize that our cheer and our band students were going to have to be considered spectators for football games,” Siers said.
According to Siers, the host school chooses the number of tickets away teams get for spectators, and many seem to settle on 50 tickets.
There are 73 students, total, who participate in cheer and band.
With not enough tickets, seeing as they are now spectators, their season is cut in half.
“It puts all schools in a bit of a tough spot, to have to tell one group, being either band and cheer or parents, that ‘sorry. You’re not welcome to attend an away game to support your school,'” the superintendent said.
“It was a big blow,” said junior cheerleader Eric McMahan. “It felt like it came out of nowhere because we’ve been working so hard to have everyone come to school and to be able to come to practices.”
The cheer team has been practicing since October.
They’ll still get to perform, but it will only be at home games, and at this point, it’s something students are willing to accept.
“We’ve got to cherish these games,” said senior cheerleader Alex Turner. “We’re teaching all the dances, all the cheers, and yeah we’re going to make the most of it, with what little time we do get.”
“I think we’re all going to be so excited and put as much energy as possible into these games because these are the only games we get to have,” McMahan added.
In a Facebook post, PCPS listed their concerns on the amendment.
Siers doesn’t understand why restrictions are so tight for something that pales in comparison to reopening classrooms.
“They are sending out mixed messages when they’re telling people ‘Yes. It’s safe to bring 1,000 or 2,000 students a day into your school, but it’s not safe to put people in an outdoor venue where we can space them 10 feet apart.'”
The amendment also limits capacity at outdoor sporting venues at no more than 30% capacity or 250 people, whichever comes first, all spectators having to wear masks and distance ten feet.
PCHS’s Dobson Stadium, according to Siers, can seat 10,000 people.
The hope for Siers and students is that Northam’s office will realize that school districts like Pulaski County are able to accommodate more fans and participants like cheer and band, safely, before the football season is over.