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SHS seniors allowed to attend final football game

Up to 100 Smithfield High School seniors will have the opportunity to attend the final home game of the football season April 2.

Statewide COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in football and other sports typically played in the fall moving to a condensed season spanning March through April, with attendance at games capped at two spectators per player, or 250 total including cheerleaders and high school band members.

Now that Gov. Ralph Northam has amended his executive orders to allow up to 500 spectators beginning April 1 — the day before the game — several hundred SHS seniors have petitioned school officials to allow them back onto the bleachers at Packer Field.

“Prom has been canceled, all dances, all gatherings, and we are still unsure about graduation … With these guidelines changing dramatically, us seniors all want to have at least one event that we can attend and enjoy as the quarantined class of 2021,” writes SHS senior Kyera Gambill, the organizer of a Change.org petition to Isle of Wight County’s School Board, which 455 people, many of them seniors and their family members, have signed.

Their voices appear to have been heard. According to school division spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, SHS Principal Bryan Thrift was out at the stadium the day after becoming aware of the petition, doing the math to see if the venue could accommodate any more spectators while still adhering to the executive order and social distancing. He determined Packer Field could accommodate 100 additional spectators.

“If there are more seniors than slots, the school will conduct a random lottery for the seats,” Briggs said. “Our priority is to follow the Governor’s Executive Order and to keep everyone safe, but we still want to provide students with memorable opportunities for their senior year.”