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Forsyth County nearing decision on fall sports attendance
Forsyth Central
Forsyth Central football players run onto the field last year ahead of a game against Lakeside-DeKalb. - photo by David Roberts

Forsyth County Schools hopes that by next week it will be able to provide a clearer picture at what attendance for extracurricular events will look like this school year.

The Georgia High School Association voted last week to push back the high school football season two weeks, keeping all other fall sports on schedule. However, the GHSA let individual counties implement their own social distancing guidelines.

“We want to be full throttle by next week,” said Nathan Turner, Forsyth County’s district athletic director. “We met (Friday) for about four, five hours. We’ll be meeting again next week and getting with (Forsyth County Schools director of communication Jennifer) Mrs. Caracciolo and kind of getting everything we want done, how we want everything before we kind of unveil it all.”

Most fall sports teams will play their first game in the next couple of weeks, with softball starting its season Aug. 6.

The first cheerleading competition is Aug. 8, while cross country and volleyball will start their seasons on Aug. 10. The football season will begin Sept. 4 and the flag football season will begin Oct. 19.

Literary, one-act plays and riflery are also fall extracurricular activities and can hold their first practice Saturday.

The GHSA did announce several rule changes for softball earlier this month.

For example, players cannot leave the dugout to congratulate teammates after a home run, players must remain 6 feet apart in the dugout and may extend the dugout into foul territory along the wall.

Turner said there are different challenges with indoor sports such as volleyball than outdoor sports such as football.

“Yeah, you have to attack each sport hand in hand,” Turner said. “You can’t look at football the same as volleyball, and volleyball the same as softball. We’re going through each sport line item and trying to come up with the best plan.”

When the high school football season opens, Forsyth County schools will face teams from Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Newton County and Atlanta Public Schools in just the first week.

With each school district implementing its own guidelines, Turner said it’s important to communicate with neighboring counties.

“I think you have to work hand in hand with each county,” Turner said. “As we walk through this process and try to put this plan together, how we’ll handle social distancing at athletics, each county is doing the same thing. So, there’s a large amount of communication across county lines, how everybody’s doing it. Our plan may not be the same as Fulton, and Fulton’s may not be the same as Cherokee. We’ll all be fairly close and we’ll all be promoting social distancing, so we’re all working through the process together.”

The high school football season will kick off with the Corky Kell Classic at West Forsyth, which will cap attendance at 4,000 people and implement additional seating behind the end zones so the bleachers can be appropriately marked off for social distancing.

The Forsyth County Board of Education voted earlier this month to approve the “Restart Forsyth” guidelines, which lays out the district’s plan to reopen schools.

“It’s why we’re also trying to come together at the same time to promote the district plan,” Turner said. “Our district talks about ‘wash up, mask up, cover up, back up and clean up.’ The district plan that we all talk about, that’s what we want to follow. So, you try to implement as much of that as you can and figure out how you can incorporate all the parameters that you’re trying to cover in the best possible way, while promoting social distancing and providing an athletic event. You have to remember, it’s a choice to come to the athletic event. So, you’re working through that process as well.”

The plan says all students and staff are expected to wear a mask while at school, and Turner said the same will be expected of fans at athletic events in the fall.

“I think it’s the same vision that the district has, that it would be expected. The district says it’s expected. That would definitely be a point that we’re going to look at, because you definitely want people to step up and mask up and do the right things by promoting social distancing.”