PAYETTE COUNTY — With the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic canceling in-person classes and preventing young athletes from competing in spring sports, one group of athletes has been particularly affected: High school seniors.

With the spring semester migrated online and a barrier to social activities thrown up, staff at Payette and New Plymouth high schools joined a national movement in turning on their respective stadiums’ lights for 20 minutes at 8:20 p.m. on April 10.

Students drove to their respective campuses and parked their cars alongside their stadiums to chat and take photos with one another, as parents and community members drove by and honked their horns to show their support for the affected seniors.

Payette High School Athletic Director Bob Dixon said the idea has been brewing across the state since the pandemic hit.

“The idea of lighting up stadiums this Friday night came from Athletic Directors throughout the State,” said Dixon via email on April 10. “It is something that is going on throughout the country, as well. The purpose is to show the community that we are thinking about the kids and that we have great empathy for the fact that they have lost the chance to participate in school activities like spring sports.  

Dixon expressed that he shares in his students’ frustration during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their families.

“The feelings of disappointment and frustration are shared by the kids, parents, and coaches. One thing we all are learning is that there is a bigger picture to life. Sports and activities are important in the development of well-rounded young people but so is the idea of doing what is necessary for the greater good.  The health and well-being of our kids and community is always our primary concern.”

Dixon emphasized that the virus has not infected his staff’s resolve to serve the community, but has instead strengthened it.

“Our coaches and staff are here for the kids whether there is a season or not. Times like this are why we do those jobs.”

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