Houston ISD canceling athletic and UIL events amid COVID-19 concerns

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, Houston ISD announced it will be canceling select athletic and UIL events.

In a letter sent to parents, the district said it will only participate in district-level varsity competitions. All non-district events, including tournaments, will be canceled.

"The district will not participate in junior varsity or freshman sporting. Middle school cross country, football, swim, and volleyball seasons will be suspended. We will be re-evaluating the basketball, track and field, and soccer seasons for middle schools," the district's email read.

HISD said family members will be allowed to attend varsity games but things could change depending on updates the district gets on COVID-19 numbers across the region.

The district's announcement comes almost a week after HISD school board's meeting, where Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan discussed the concerns over the spike in COVID-19 cases in the Houston community.

She shared a conversation she had with city health officials and revealed a question that has been at the top of many parents and educators minds recently.

"Are we at a place where there's concern about spread on our campuses and across the community, as it relates to us still offering face-to-face instruction and virtual for those who choose?" said Lathan at the time. "It is not the concern and actually they complimented what we've done to mitigate issues or prevent the spread."

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The compliment, she said, came from Dr. David Persse with the city of Houston's health department.

"I really want to give credit to all the superintendents, teachers, all they've done to make the schools safe," said Persse.

"Our epidemiology shows we have had cases where there has been spread in the classroom, but it has not been what we anticipated. It's been far less than that," Persse added.

Experts say the virus is spreading more rapidly outside of the classroom.

"Where we're seeing spread among students is not in the classroom, it's amongst the sports teams, it's amongst the after school clubs," explained Persse.

He went on to say, "What happens [and what] we're learning is kids are coming together, they're not wearing their masks, they're not social distancing and they're spreading the virus from one to another."

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HISD added that schools will not be participating in any club sports and will re-evaluate this suspension on Jan. 22.

HISD sent the following statement:

Due to the increase in coronavirus cases in Harris County, HISD has decided to participate in select athletic competitions beginning this week. At this time, we will only participate in district varsity level high school games. We will not participate in non-district high school competitions, including tournaments, junior varsity, freshmen games, or club sports until further notice. Middle school, cross country, football, swimming, and volleyball seasons are being suspended until further notice. We will be re-evaluating the basketball, track & field, and soccer seasons for middle schools. The district will re-evaluate the decision to cancel select athletic and UIL events on Friday, January 22, 2021.

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