El Paso's City/County Health officials released an updated order this morning, putting the first two weeks of the high school football season in doubt. Health and area school system officials met earlier this week to discuss ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as students return to the classroom for the Fall semester. They recommend the following policies to local schools:

• All school systems (public and private) shall not re-open schools for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after September 7, 2020.
• Virtual instruction shall be permitted as per a school system’s own plan.
• To the extent permitted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), and consistent with the procedures required under the federal regulations and state rules implementing the IDEA, all children with special healthcare needs that are considered medically fragile under the IDEA shall not return to school for on-campus, face-to-face instruction, until the 2021-2022 school year.
Extracurricular sports and activities shall not take place until school systems re-open for on-campus instruction.
• School systems shall develop a plan for re-opening on-campus activities and instruction and it make available to parents and the public, at least two weeks prior to reopening.

Since all schools are not allowed to re-open for on-campus face-to-face instruction until after September 7th, the beginning of the high school football season is in doubt. Teams are supposed to kick off the 2020 season on Friday, August 28th and week two games would be played on September 4th. Some teams are off the week of September 4th which means they would miss just the first game of the season. Normally, the UIL mandates that teams need two weeks of practice before they can take the field in a regular season game. They could always change that in light of the pandemic, but under normal UIL rules, high school football would not start until September 24th and 25th. That means most local teams would jump right into district play.

As for the rest of the state, Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa expressed doubt that a high school football season even happens in the fall.

It will be an interesting decision by the UIL to see if they decide to pull the plug on all fall sports and allow them to play instead in the spring. I would love to see senior student athletes get an opportunity to play their final season of high school athletics in the spring semester rather than lose out on their last year of eligibility. The weather in El Paso is also ideal during that time of year, making football a nice added bonus to start 2021 if the recovery from the pandemic starts to improve around the city and state.

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