It has been a year quite unlike any other.

St. James, just like any school in Phelps County, the state of Missouri and much like the rest of the country, has faced the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and adopted procedures to try and ensure that fall sports and activities can safely be seen to their completion.

“The fall seasons have had its share of challenges. I believe our coaches have handled all the new protocols and procedures the best they can,” St. James activity director Greg Harlan stated. “They want to give our teams the best chance to play and are willing to take the added steps. It is going to be a year of some frustrations for everyone- coaches, players, fans and schools in general- but if we can stay flexible I feel we will be able to enjoy the fall seasons this year as much as we have in the past.

“When the idea that things may change and be gone in an instant, it makes everyone have a better appreciation of what we do as a school, family, community and individuals.”

At the start of the year, the school district adopted coronavirus protocols similar to those seen at Rolla with five different tiers of participation. Prior to the start of the season, parents or guardians were required to sign a COVID-19 waiver for a student-athlete to participate in fall activities and all coaches and participants complete a COVID-19 health screening prior to attending or participating in any activity.

There are a number of other protocols athletes and coaches follow as well such as using the same doors for entrances and exits, recording the daily attendance at each practice and contest, wearing masks where social distancing cannot be maintained unless in a strenuous physical activity, bringing individual sports drinks for hydration and not attending any activity if there are any illnesses or symptoms. School facilities are open to local community teams, but students outside the St. James’ student bodies have been restricted from practicing in district facilities.

Through it all, all precautions may be modified in accordance with guidance from county, state or federal governing organizations.

When it comes to events Tier 1 is essential personnel, which includes athletes, coaches and directors, game officials, school administration, event staff, medical staff and security with no spectators or concessions. Tier 2 includes essential personnel and those who receive player vouchers only, which also includes band members and cheerleaders, and school concessions will be provided. At Tier 3, general high school vouchers will be provided and Tier 4 will allow all the above in addition to spectator vouchers. At Tier 5, there are no normal restrictions and outside vendors are allowed.

St. James started its fall activities in Tier 4 operations with spectators needing to wear a mask to and during all inside events and spectators sitting in the main bleachers of the football stadium needing to wear a mask. However, spectators who have sat or stood on the side of the main stadium bleachers could remove their masks if three to six feet of distance was maintained. Vouchers have been available for purchase at the high school attendance office from Tuesday at 9 a.m. through Friday at 3 p.m.

In order to gain admission at varsity volleyball games on the road, home or road football games and road middle school basketball games, interested spectators must have a ticket game voucher. At this current time, no voucher is necessary for any junior varsity football games, varsity softball games, cross country meets or middle school football games. Any student in the eight grade or below must be accompanied by an adult at all varsity football and volleyball games.

Harlan also noted that the school district is currently in the process of having Pixellot Camera Systems installed at the football field and high school gym. It is a streaming service which will allow non-attending spectators to watch a game. Individuals wanting to watch a game will have to pay a subscription fee by the game or season and the amount is comparable to a gate entry fee.