East Valley districts continue to react to virus

Rivera athletes work out Monday at Rivera's training facility and football field during the first day of group strength and conditioning sessions permitted by the University Interscholastic League. Courtesy Photos/Beto Leal

LYFORD — After a student-athlete tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, San Benito CISD announced Wednesday evening its decision to suspend summer extracurricular activities until further notice.

“The ongoing increase in the number of COVID-19 cases within Cameron County and the state of Texas is a concern to many,” SBCISD superintendent Nate Carman wrote in a statement. “As a precautionary measure and acting in the best interest of the safety, health and well-being of our students and staff, the decision has been made to suspend our district’s summer 2020 strength and conditioning program as well as all extracurricular activities including Belles, cheer and band.”

The University Interscholastic League guidelines for summer strength and conditioning did not mandate that programs had to shut down operations if a participant or coach tested positive for the coronavirus once schools were allowed to begin workouts June 8. But many districts, in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond, did choose to suspend activities when notified of a positive test and also out of an abundance of caution as cases in Texas begin to rise.

Brownsville ISD announced Tuesday that a participant tested positive for COVID-19, and that the district would therefore postpone strength and conditioning programs at all six schools until at least July 13.

On Thursday, BISD released a statement that said a male student-athlete from Rivera Early College high school tested positive.

“Rivera has been deeply sanitized and although schools have been closed since June 15, 2020, and remain closed at this time, all BISD students and employees are instructed to continue to follow (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and recommendations, and to practice social distancing,” BISD superintendent Dr. Rene Gutierrez said in a letter.

San Benito didn’t initially suspend activities, but in accordance with UIL guidelines, the people who were in contact with the student-athlete were directed to stay home and it was recommended to get tested. Isabel Gonzalez, the director of public relations for SBCISD, said in an email Tuesday that several of those individuals notified the district of their own negative test results.

But the Greyhounds ultimately decided to follow suit with districts across the Valley to hit pause on the summer programs. Rio Hondo ISD, La Feria ISD, Lyford CISD, Raymondville ISD, San Perlita ISD, Los Fresnos CISD, Point Isabel ISD, Santa Rosa ISD and Santa Maria ISD are among the Valley school districts that have postponed. It is unclear when San Benito and others will continue, and in some cases start, their workouts.

Late Thursday, Rio Hondo ISD superintendent Roger Ellis released a statement that said two male staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Ellis said “male student athletes that attended the strength and conditioning program on Monday, June 15, may have been exposed.”

Rio Hondo will be closing its high school campus until July 6.

Harlingen CISD and St. Joseph Academy, a member of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, are both continuing with their summer programs. Harlingen CISD athletic director Robert Davies said Tuesday that athletes and staff at both Harlingen High and Harlingen South are strictly following district, UIL and CDC safety protocols to keep all participants safe.

St. Joseph director of athletics Tino Villarreal released a statement Thursday reiterating that workouts are voluntary, and students will not be punished if they choose not to attend. The statement laid out safety measures SJA is taking in order to keep participants healthy so workouts can continue.

“As you may have heard multiple independent school districts have postponed summer strength & conditioning and sport specific instruction. … Saint Joseph Academy will continue to host summer workouts for the time being,” Villarreal said in the statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and I will update you should any new developments or calendar changes occur.”