PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The Friday night lights are back on in the School District of Palm Beach County as high school football kicks off for a shortened season.
Games will only be played at Wellington, Boca Raton and Jupiter high schools on Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate all teams.
COVID-19 has already impacted the season's modified schedule. The district announced per the Florida Department of Health that the football game between William T. Dwyer and Forest Hill high schools Saturday has been canceled. The district said someone involved with the Forest Hill High School football team has tested positive for COVID-19. The hope is to reschedule the game later in the season. The Suncoast High School/Village Academy game scheduled for 6 p.m. will now move to 2 p.m. Saturday.
There are also new spectator protocols fans will need to follow. Guests will purchase tickets online through the GoFan website or app. Gates will open 30 to 45 minutes before the game starts. Right now, those tickets are not available to the general public.
"Right now tickets are limited to strictly parents and guardians and families of the participants," district athletic manager Valerie Miyares said. "So we'll allow for two tickets per football player, pep band member and cheerleader and some of the other support personnel and that's how we're going to get started these first four weeks."
She went on to say that, throughout the state, "stadiums and gyms are reengaging anywhere from as low as 15% to max of 50%, so we wanted to bring sports back to our community in a conservative and measured way."
Fans will need valid tickets in order to park and will follow social distancing guidelines for seating. Admission will stop mid-way through the event, so at the start of the third quarter for football games.
The district said concession stands will be closed but guests can bring in one sealed bottle of water per person. Spectators will need a photo ID, digital ticket, face mask and personal items in a clear bag. They'll also have to answer health questions and undergo a temperature check and security screening.
Miyares said they've worked hard to bring sports back in a safe manner and give the school community a bit of normalcy.
"We were delayed months behind the rest of the state and we had significant impact with the coronavirus, so the fact that we are able to come back to a little bit of normalcy while it looks different, it's there for us, so there is a significant amount of excitement around that," she said.
The district is also utilizing a specialized cleaning system for locker rooms and equipment.
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Glenda Sheffield said a high-level disinfectant system will be used to clean facilities.
"We're actually the first district in the state of Florida that will be utilizing this disinfectant system, and this system is used at the collegiate and at the pro level," Sheffield said.
Girls volleyball and other fall sports are also now underway. Tryouts for some winter sports will begin next month with the goal of starting the spring sports season on time.