KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
July 10, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark
Students taking part in summer activities such as athletics or marching band are expected to wear face coverings, according to new guidelines released by the University Interscholastic League. Many Katy students and families have concerns about returning to practices as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Face Coverings and More
The University Interscholastic League (UIL) released new guidelines for students participating in summer programs like sports and marching band. Guidelines released this week include 2020 Summer activities and in-season activities for the 2020-2021 academic year. UIL says that guidelines will be adjusted according to any executive orders issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott as the public health situation changes.
Coronavirus Cases Continue to Grow
Yesterday, the United States reported about 60,000 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total affected to over 3.1 million (the most in the world). For the fourth consecutive day, Texas reported more than 10,000 new cases on Thursday, and 100 deaths for the first time. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Department, Harris County currently has 26,048 active cases and Fort Bend County has 2,868.
Katy Students Want to Return, Remain Concerned
“My son has kept up with his band friends and would love to return in the fall,” says Katy mom Tiffany Gettleman. “It’s been an integral part of his high school experience. However, he plays the trombone and we both agree that it will be challenging to stay safe inside the band hall.”
According to the new UIL guidelines, all employees, parents, visitors and students ten years of age or older must wear face coverings when present in an area where a UIL activity is being held. These guidelines apply to those not actively practicing. While practicing, students do not have to wear face coverings; but as soon as they aren’t actively practicing, they must comply with the guidelines.
Exceptions do apply in cases where a medical condition prevents an individual from wearing a mask or when someone is eating or drinking. Individuals are also required to distance themselves six feet apart when not wearing face coverings.
Schools must also follow guidelines set out by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for screening staff prior to their involvement with any UIL activity.
All teachers and staff must practice self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms. This includes checking their temperature prior to attending activities. Teachers and staff are also required to report to the school if they have had contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. If symptomatic, or if they have confirmed exposure to the virus, teachers and staff may not participate or attend events until the 14-day incubation period has passed.
Parents are also expected to check their students for symptoms and any suspected exposure as well.
Still, with these guidelines, Katy parents express concern.
“As a nurse, I’m very concerned about the ventilation systems in our schools,” says Gettleman. “We know this is a respiratory illness and spreads by droplet contamination.”
Katy Parents Torn over Schools Reopening
This week the TEA shared their guidelines for Texas schools to reopen next month and Katy families were divided. Katy ISD also shared the results from their recent parent survey. Only about a third of those who received the survey responded and results were varied.
Schools Will Open Before Courts
“Texas courts have been closed since this started in March,” says Katy mom Jennifer Skelton who works in the legal field. “No jury trials, only essential business in person but most hearing and meetings via zoom, email or phone. This has been extended several times and now has a return to in-person September 1.”
Texas schools, including Katy ISD, are set to reopen to in-person classes mid-August. Skelton, like other working moms, needs schools to open, but will put her child’s safety first.
“I’m 90% with the remote learning to start,” says Skelton. “I don’t want my son to be a guinea pig for how this goes.”
“Until Katy ISD can share their plan for improving the air quality in classrooms, and particularly the band hall, I’m hesitant to see my son return to school and band,” says Gettleman.
Local High School Band Could Resume Practices This Month
UIL did give the authority to local districts to make decisions on how to best handle their area.
“Schools should take their local context into account when making decisions related to summer practices and rehearsals on campus,” UIL released in a statement. “Schools should follow all state requirements when considering these activities.”
“Taylor band is scheduled to return on July 27,” says Gettleman. “We were notified this week that the date may change depending on Katy’s plans for sports and extracurricular activities in the fall.”
Katy ISD is offering families the choice to enroll their students for in-person instruction or use remote learning options. Starting next week, July 13, Katy families can learn more about remote learning and consider how they will start the 2020-21 school year.
UIL is set to re-evaluate their guidelines on August 1 regarding sports and other activities.
For more COVID-19 statistics for Texas, visit the Texas Health and Human Services Department website here.