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COVID Restrictions: Parents Upset About Limited Fans At High School Football Games

WENHAM (CBS) - With just seven games, it's a short season, but the Hamilton Wenham High School football team is just happy to be playing this year.

Dina Coffey's son and her daughter are on the team. Dina says, "It's wonderful to see how much they have grown and to be there for them." But Dina may not be at some games. She and other parents got a letter from the school telling them that there are no fans allowed on the road at any away games.

Phil Monahan's son is a senior this year and one of the team captains. "It means I can't see my son play in his last few games in high school," Monahan said. "It's very frustrating."

Hamilton Wenham is part of the Cape Ann League, a group of North Shore schools that compete against each other in sports. The league decided to only allow the home team to have fans in the stands, despite state guidelines that specifically allow spectators with social distancing at outdoor facilities. Parents say there's plenty of room around a football field to allow spectators.

John Mulvihill's son is a senior captain. "It's unfair to the kids who have struggled, they have suffered enough this year with losses it's crazy to us," Mulvihill said.

Parents started an online petition to change the policy. It has already gotten more than 1500 signatures. Many say they are willing to pitch in to make the stadiums safe. Jim Moynahan is the president of the Hamilton Wenham Boosters. "There's an easy fix to it we are willing to help out, get out the measuring tapes, get out the blue tape, mark the seats, mark the distance figure it out and let's get it done," he explained.

Hamilton Wenham is playing Newburyport Friday night. Newburyport tells WBZ it is not allowing away team fans – and plans to use a phased in approach to bringing back spectators. Moynahan says without parents at the games, everyone misses out. "For me hugging my son when he came off the field last Thanksgiving Day game, I will never forget it I don't think my son will either. To rob our parents and student-athletes of this once in a lifetime moment not right and disappointing."

After the I-Team started asking questions, parents say they were notified that Hamilton Wenham will allow fans from the opposing team to attend their games. They're hoping other schools follow suit.

Full statement from Newburyport Public Schools:

Newburyport Public Schools is excited for the start of our Fall 2 Athletic Season. The Cape Ann League (CAL) has worked collaboratively through the fall and winter to get our athletes safely on the playing fields.

As we begin this season, we continue to follow guidance from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and our local Board of Health and are planning a phased in approach to increasing spectator capacity at athletic events. Within the Cape Ann League, every school has sporting venues and facilities with unique designs and capacities, so each district has a slightly different plan. For week one events, NPS will be allowing two immediate family members of our home team athletes to attend.

Our Athletic Director and school administrators will review our capacity limits on a weekly basis, following guidelines that allow us to safely operate the athletic program for our students.

Week one is an important opportunity for us to launch new procedures and fine tune our plans. We anticipate being able to increase spectator capacity over the next few weeks. We appreciate the community's support and patience as we open a new season.

Sean Gallagher
Superintendent of Schools

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