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Area schools in ND welcoming full crowds at sporting events this fall

Fall sports resume with a more normal experience as area schools in North Dakota are allowing full capacity at all events.

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There'll be no attendance restrictions for North Dakota high school sports fans at indoor or outdoor events at surrounding schools this fall. David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — Friday night lights will be back with full crowds at area schools this fall. Fan attendance at North Dakota high school sporting events is — for the most part — back to normal, at least for now across the Fargo metro area.

It’ll be a much different environment than a year ago. Gone are attendance limits and taped-off rows. This fall will be a more normal experience for participants and spectators as venues will be at full capacity.

There’ll be no attendance restrictions at indoor or outdoor sporting events at Fargo Public Schools, West Fargo Public Schools, St. John Paul II Catholic Schools, and outstate schools Northern Cass, Central Cass, Kindred and Hillsboro-Central Valley.

Last fall, only essential personnel and a limited number of fans were allowed to attend games at West Fargo Public Schools and Fargo Public Schools, while metro area schools utilized social distancing. Now, anybody who wants to attend a high school event across the area will be free to do so. As long as there are enough seats available, they’ll be let in.

However, it's not totally back to normal at Fargo’s public schools, which have a mask requirement in place for anyone inside the district’s facilities that is not actively participating. The guidance is in accordance with Fargo Public Schools’ Aug. 10 decision to follow local and national health department guidance and mandate masks in schools for the upcoming school year.

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Fargo Public Schools will not restrict attendance at any sporting events this fall. David Samson / The Forum

“Really, we’re just talking about volleyball and girls swimming and diving in the fall are our only two indoor activities,” said Todd Olson, director of student activities for Fargo Public Schools.

Masks won’t be required at outdoor sporting events at Fargo North, South or Davies.

Outside of Fargo, schools like Shanley, West Fargo, West Fargo Sheyenne, Northern Cass, Central Cass, Kindred and Hillsboro-CV do not have any restrictions for spectators at extracurricular events at this time.

JPII activities director Reggie Jackson said in an email that masks are encouraged, as is washing hands frequently. Jackson also added that the school system’s guidelines are subject to change dependent upon information from health authorities.

As it stands now, COVID-19 guidelines for fall sports and activities will be up to schools and districts. The North Dakota High School Activities Association voted at a June Board meeting to make its Return to Competition Guidelines a historical document, meaning the guidance was for last year only and won’t be in effect for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way,” Olson said. “Last year, at this time, we were disinfecting volleyballs and doing all kinds of things that we are not currently doing because we've learned that COVID is a respiratory disease.”

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West Fargo Sheyenne players and fans watch the action between the Mustangs and Packers during soccer play on Aug. 20, 2020, at Essentia Health Packers Stadium in West Fargo. Forum file photo

The relative lack of rules and restrictions on fan attendance is a major change from last fall. A year ago, a vast majority of schools required masks be worn at indoor events and schools had to put in place procedures to limit the number of fans.

Some gave vouchers to the student-athletes, some put a hard cap on the number of tickets sold. Some schools required every attendee to check in and write down their name and contact information upon entry to an event. Rows and sections of bleachers were taped off to allow for social distancing and fans were asked to only sit near members of their immediate family.

The bulk of those restrictions are a thing of the past, at least for now.

“We don’t know how this is going to progress, whether it’s going to get better or worse and when,” Olson said. “So for right now, we’re masked up indoors and pretty much normal outside.”

Olson added the one thing administrators and schools learned from last year is that things change frequently.

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