New Social Distancing Rules Begin for Athletic Events


Jennifer Hoovis

Six feet apart, Xs mark socially-distanced spots in the student section of the bleachers. Patriot fans will need to stay socially distant in order to avoid further regulations.

Eavan Driscoll, Staff Reporter

The student section at the home football game against William Flemming tonight will look a little different compared to the hordes of fans last week.

Patriot fans will need to stand on Xs six feet apart from each other while in the student section.

Athletic Director Deb Tyson and health teacher Amy Sherrill’s freshman seminar class were out in the bleachers early Thursday morning taping distanced Xs on the stands.

Patriots cheer on the football team in the packed student section during the Aug. 28 game against Harrisonburg. The packed student section raised concerns amid rising numbers of Covid cases. (Jennifer Hoovis)

“Our job as educators is to do what we can to protect the health and well-being of our students, “ Tyson said. “It was clear after the [Aug. 28] football game that something needed to change.”

Although Tyson was wary of the crowded student section Friday, she also felt glad to see students “out here again, painted and celebrating their school together.”

“For too long we have looked up in the stands and seen no one,” leadership teacher Rich Lindsay said. He believes that we need to work to find a balance between fun and safety.

“It is important for kids to enjoy their time at school,” Lindsay said.

Psychology teacher Steve Turner believes that this year is an opportunity to teach students self management and accountability.

“Student regulation and leading by example are the only ways we can work together to overcome Covid as a school,” Tyson said, agreeing with Turner.

On the day of last week’s football game  there were 87 new Covid cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District according to the Virginia Department of Health. These cases have been continually climbing again since the end of July, including five from Albemarle High School as of Aug. 30.

“As numbers go up, we go out,” Tyson said.

Tyson and principal Darah Bonham worked with central office staff and the other county schools to come up with this plan of visible distancing.

Tyson acknowledged that they will have critics for this decision no matter what, but believes that her job is to do all she can to ensure students have the opportunity to cheer for their teams.

“No one likes this, but more than we don’t like it, we want to be here.”

If social distancing does not work, other steps will have to be taken until cases go down.

As of right now there is no ticket limit or mask mandate in the stands; however, the possibility of family-only games is a looming option that may be put in place should cases continue to rise.

We are one big team. The only way we can overcome is by working together.”

— Athletic Director Deb Tyson

Tyson’s “dream” for the athletic school year is for all student athletes to be able to complete their season and for their classmates to be able to support them with “Patriot Pride.”

“I want everyone to have fun with their friends and families, and to benefit from this great experience of being a student athlete or fan at Albemarle,” Tyson said, getting emotional.

“We [Albemarle students and staff] are one big team. The only way we can overcome is by working together.”

The football game against Fleming is scheduled for 7 pm at the turf and the spirit theme is tropical.

Check out Patriot Pride’s Twitter account and the A-town Animal Instagram page for more information on the upcoming game and any new regulations.