By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
Vandegrift football, volleyball and marching band seasons can begin Sept. 7 according to the University Interscholastic League “2020-2021 UIL COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Guidelines” released this week.
“With the recency of the announcement, we are just thrilled to have official dates and plan for a season,” said Drew Sanders, VHS athletic director and head football coach. “We were hoping for a decision soon, so we are excited to get to plan.”
“We are moving forward with working to create a marching band experience for our students,” said Mike Howard, director of bands at Vandegrift. “It will look different, but we feel that it would be very positive for the students, parents and community to see the Vandegrift Viper Band and Vision Dance Company in performance.”
Released on July 21, the UIL states all 6A football, band and volleyball programs can start practice on Sept. 7. Team tennis and cross country can begin competition on Sept. 7. Volleyball can start games on Sept. 14 and football can start games Sept. 24.
Schools may allow spectators to attend games, contests, or events within a maximum 50% capacity limitation, provided that appropriate spacing between spectators is maintained according to the protocol, the UIL also stated this week.
“We are hopeful this plan allows students to participate in the education-based activities they love in a way that prioritizes safety and mitigates risk of COVID-19 spread,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said in the release.
On July 19, a few days prior to the UIL announcement, Leander ISD suspended all extra- and co-curricular activities until further notice. Now, this week, the district is working with the new UIL guidelines to shape the various seasons.
Later on Tuesday, the LISD band directors collectively shared a message that they have decided not to compete in any competitive events including UIL competitions.
“While we will not be competing as we have in the past this year, I am confident that should we be fortunate enough to perform live again, it will be a very special experience,” VHS’ Howard said. The last live performance by the band was in December 2019.
Regarding football games, the LISD band directors stated that halftime performances will be greatly reduced in length, and the attendance and participation of bands will be evaluated on a weekly basis.
In sports, the UIL released state championship dates: team tennis Nov. 11-12, cross country Dec. 5, volleyball Dec. 11-12, band December 2020, and football January 2021.
VHS’ Sanders says it is still too early to tell how the COVID-19 suspension and season delays will affect sports at VHS and across the district.
“Everything is pushed back at the moment in the 5A/6A division. We are still processing the news release and will send out our updated schedules as soon as approved,” Sanders said.
As far as what the community can expect, Sanders said, “it will possibly lessen the total amount of games, but we are still working through that.”
According to the UIL, the only changes to the basketball season is the district certification deadline and the limiting of the number of teams allowed to scrimmage at one site.
Smaller schools across Texas in classes 1A-4A will begin athletic activities as scheduled early next month. Practices begin Aug. 3 and volleyball games begin Aug. 10 and football Aug. 27.
Across the state, the “UIL COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Guidelines” will go into effect on Aug. 1, but UIL leaders noted that changes in public health may require changes to the guidance.
“All employees, parents, visitors and students 10 years of age or older must wear face coverings or face shields upon entry to an area where UIL activities are being conducted and when not actively practicing or playing in the contest,” the release says.
Schools and parents are responsible for screening athletes for COVID-19 symptoms.
If someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, they must meet three criteria before returning: 1. At least 72 hours have passed since recovery, 2. An improvement in symptoms and 3. At least 10 days since the first symptoms appeared.
Sanders said Viper football will do what is necessary to play the season.
“We have a bunch of young men that have been working very hard that are excited for a chance to add to the Vandegrift football tradition,” Sanders said. “We are thrilled that we will get to do that this year, but obviously we will go by all the health protocols and be safe in the process.”
Howard agrees, saying the Viper band and Vision Dance, with nearly 400 students, will also do what it takes.
“There are several hurdles with safety and logistics in the way for a group our size,” Howard said. “However, the band staff is committed to creating an outstanding experience for our students and I’m convinced that seeing the Viper band will be a major boost for our community.”