It’s a first for many local school districts this week.
For dozens of schools districts, thousands of students returned in-person for the first time this week. Dayton Public Schools returning on Wednesday transported students using private school buses. And for the first time in more than year, many districts had students return without wearing a mask.
One of the biggest changes starts tonight when the first local high school football game is held tonight in front of thousands of fans for the first time in nearly two years.
“The rivalry’s been rooted for many, many years in the history of our community,” FHS Athletic Director Chris Weaver said.
Weaver expects a large crowd at Roush Stadium, which he said can hold about 7,000 people.
“This is just a tremendous experience for athletes on both sides of the field to just experience an awesome atmosphere: Under the lights, packed stadium, in a lot of cases — most years — the best high school football game in town,” he added.
While the coronavirus has cancelled at least one area game, Friday night Dunbar is set to host Wayne at Welcome Stadium, Beavercreek plays at Xenia and Fairfield travels to Centerville.
A large turnout at Welcome Stadium wouldn’t be a surprise when Dunbar faces Division I power Wayne.
Dayton Public Schools is following Ohio High School Athletic Association guidelines, but “athletic events are open for spectators at this time with no capacity limits” at the 11,000-seat venue, said district spokesperson Alex Kincaid.
Attempts to contact several athletic directors in the Greater Western Ohio Conference for this article were unsuccessful. However, Weaver said he did not know of any GWOC schools that are limiting attendance at athletic events.
Credit: JIM NOELKER
Credit: JIM NOELKER
No game is scheduled this weekend in Lebanon, where the Warriors’ contest against Springboro has been called off.
Too many Lebanon athletes are under quarantine for coronavirus exposure, the school announced earlier this week.
None of the school districts — Beavercreek, Centerville and Huber Heights among them — contacted for this article responded when asked if any players would not be available this weekend due to COVID-19 issues.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday “we are clearly well past the time when the state can mandate to parents and school districts what actions to take.”
On Wednesday, the state was averaging 2,033 daily cases in the past three weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Health. It’s the highest 21-day case average since early March.
Statewide coronavirus restrictions involving face masks and social distancing were lifted in June, but the OHSAA continues to urge members to follow safe coronavirus protocols, according to its website.
The OHSAA states it is “highly recommended that coaches and student-athletes who are eligible for vaccinations to be vaccinated and it is highly recommended that those who are unvaccinated maintain social distancing and wear masks in indoor facilities and in outdoor facilities where there are crowded situations.”
Fairmont has not instituted any social distancing guidelines and is following the Kettering school district’s lead on masks, Weaver said. They are not required — but highly recommended — for unvaccinated individuals in buildings, Kettering administrators have said.
“Once we were given that information about the ability to host athletic contests again and there were not any restrictions for fans, we were fully on board with the ability to welcome back our community,” Weaver said.
“We certainly encourage those who want and are willing to make a personal decision to wear a face covering. They can certainly do that. And we respect those who are in a position that they don’t want to,” he added.
Fairmont and DPS will livestream games, officials said.
High school football games are scheduled to be hosted this weekend starting tonight at the following venues with the number of seats listed:
Nick Blizzard is a staff writer for the Dayton Daily News. He is a graduate of Stebbins High School who earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and its E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Nick is a Riverside native and has been a journalist in the Dayton area for more than 20 years.