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Lawmakers want to allow fans at games

Republicans in the state House of Representatives are mounting a letter-writing campaign to allow fans at high school sporting events this fall.

Last week, Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence, sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, Dr. Rachel Levine, state health secretary, and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association board after a recent decision would eliminate spectators from 2020 school sporting events.

Bernstine wrote that eliminating spectators hurt small community youth sports leagues that rely on income from concessions and 50-50 giveaways to keep the leagues running. Bernstine also said he is disappointed that the PIAA didn’t try to find ways to allow parents to watch games before simply disallowing spectators.

“I have been contacted by many parents, coaches, and student-athletes who are rightfully upset and concerned about the negative impacts of this decision. School sports are a short-lived opportunity for our youth, and a proud time for thousands of Pennsylvania parents, families, and local communities,” Bernstine wrote. “Our student athletes deserve to have their parents cheering them on in the stands, and parents deserve the short chance to see their children compete and grow.”

On Monday, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin, joined 62 other Pennsylvania House Republicans in writing to Wolf and the PIAA to allow parents to attend games.

“At a time when folks have had the five-months-long experience of social distancing and protecting themselves and others from a contagious virus, it makes no sense that people might be less safe sitting in the football stands or around the high school track at a soccer match, with appropriate modifications, than in the aisles of their local mega retailer,” the letter to Gov. Wolf reads. “On July 31, 2020, you reminded Pennsylvanians that you are looking to keep decisions as to school reopening local, saying, ‘School governing boards and administrators will determine if school buildings reopen and if classes resume in person, remotely, or a combination of the two.’ Should not similar allowances be made for whether spectators should be allowed at a local school’s sporting events?”

Bennington’s letter to the PIAA board asked members to think outside the box and examine other solutions. The PIAA board meets again on Aug. 26.

“While we understand that you feel constrained by the governor’s orders in this regard, we wish to remind you that PIAA is an independent agency that has the ability to think outside the box to come up with a commonsense solution that can allow both sports to proceed as normal while, at a minimum, allowing parents of students to watch their loved ones in person,” Bennington wrote. “We would hope that if no accommodation can be made for the public at large to attend PIAA events, that at least some modification be made for parents of students.”

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