Spiking COVID-19 cases cause some programs to hit pause

A Rio Hondo athlete participates in a drill Tuesday during the Bobcats' summer strength and conditioning program at Bobcats Stadium. Rio Hondo ISD, along with many school districts across the Rio Grande Valley, decided to postpone summer training programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By Claire Cruz, Valley Morning Star

HARLINGEN — School districts across the Rio Grande Valley and the state have announced they will be postponing summer strength and conditioning and sport-specific training programs until further notice.

Rio Hondo ISD, Santa Rosa ISD, Lyford CISD, La Feria ISD and Raymondville ISD are among the East Valley school districts that decided to hold off on continuing workouts at the school out of caution. McAllen ISD, Edinburg ISD, Weslaco ISD and others across the Valley are hitting pause, too.

Two East Valley school districts, Brownsville ISD and San Benito CISD, announced Monday that they each had a student-athlete who participated in the summer training programs test positive for COVID-19.

Brownsville ISD suspended workouts Monday and released a statement Tuesday that said the programs may begin again July 13, after BISD evaluates the situation.

San Benito’s athletic department notified parents and guardians Monday night about the affected student-athlete through a statement from athletic director and football coach Dan Gomez released on social media. The statement said the case “was not contracted on campus.”

Despite the positive test, San Benito will continue to offer workouts at the school. Isabel Gonzalez, the director of public relations for SBCISD, said via email that “those who were within close proximity of the student were notified and directed to stay home and consider being tested. Several of those individuals have reported to (San Benito) their negative test results.”

All student-athletes who were in contact with the diagnosed student-athlete were asked to isolate for 14 days by the school district, according to the statement. Gonzalez said SBCISD will consider postponing or canceling the strength and conditioning program “if our students’ safety and well-being is compromised.”

Gomez’s letter said the athletic department “will continue to practice due diligence and monitor each student-athlete with weekly questionnaires and daily temperature checks.”

Harlingen CISD athletic director Robert Davies said the Cardinals and Hawks are planning to continue summer training programs as well. Davies said administration, coaches and student-athletes at both schools are taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all involved with the workouts by “understanding and adhering to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), UIL and HCISD safety protocols that are in place.”

“We spent a lot of time, energy and effort training our staff and going through all of our protocols, and we feel like our coaches and kids are doing a great job of abiding by those,” Davies said. “In many ways, arguably, they may be as safe with us as they are anywhere else because we’re maintaining social distancing, we’re hand sanitizing, we’re temperature checking, we’re taking surveys and wearing masks.”

Rio Hondo student-athletes only got two days of workouts in because the district chose to start the training programs one week after the date allowed by the UIL. The Bobcats staggered arrival times of small groups of athletes and kept them rotating among workout stations that were spread across the football stadium and weight room.

All Rio Hondo athletes and coaches had to wear masks to participate, and the student-athletes had their temperature checked before being allowed to commence training for the day.

La Feria was scheduled to begin Monday as well but decided to postpone workouts for the time being. Santa Rosa and Raymondville have not held any training programs yet and will continue to have their start date postponed as their respective administrations evaluate the situation.

Lyford CISD began workouts June 8, but decided to postpone those Monday for the time being and will “re-evaluate from week to week,” athletic director and football coach Israel Gonzales said.