The door is now officially open for all Rochester public schools to begin their high school and youth winter sports seasons.

That opening came late Tuesday night, when the Rochester School Board green-lighted those activities as part of a lengthy meeting, with its biggest announcement that students would return to a hybrid-learning model starting Jan. 19.

In an announcement last week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz gave permission for high school and youth sports to resume on Monday with practices. Games are scheduled for as early as Jan. 14.

The Rochester School Board had waited until Tuesday night to make its own decision regarding startup times for winter sports. Lourdes and Schaeffer Academy held its first practices on Monday. John Marshall, Mayo and Century got started today.

Also announced Wednesday, by Gov. Walz, was that fans will be allowed to attend high school and youth sporting events this winter.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

There will be a limit, however, with capacity capped at 25 percent. That figures to be about 150 fans for indoor events such as hockey and basketball and 250 people at outdoor events.

Walz has recognized a recent decline in the COVID-19 positivity rate state-wide, setting off his loosening of restrictions.

The Minnesota State High School League will have the final say on sports guidelines, with its updates expected soon.

High school and youth winters sports normally begin in late November. However, with spiraling numbers of COVID-19 cases in November and early December, seasons were pushed back.

Teams must have 10 practice days in before they can start playing games, so the soonest Rochester teams will be able to play will be Jan. 16.