Face masks will be required through the summer workouts and the upcoming school year, per Gov. Greg Abbott's order, the University Interscholastic League said Wednesday in newly released guidelines and requirements.
The guidance gave additional protocols for students who are in summer strength conditioning and marching band activities.
Multiple North Texas schools have already dealt with cases of COVID-19 in their summer strength and conditioning programs.
The new requirements say all employees, parents, visitors and students over 10 years old must wear a face mask or shield when entering an area where UIL activities are happening. They are also required when not actively exercising or practicing.
Students can access locker rooms and engage in drills that involve one or more students on offense and defense beginning July 13, the UIL said.
Open gyms and weight rooms are not allowed at this time. Supervised workouts may be conducted.
Students should remain in single groups or cohorts to minimize the number of students and staff who have to isolate if a positive case is confirmed, the UIL said.
Attendance must be optional for students. Schools should consider providing guidance for working out at home away from school, the UIL said.
Schools are required to plan for staggered entry and exit procedures so fewer students and parents are congregating together outside or around the workout area, the UIL said.
The governor's face mask order that went into effect July 3 applies to all UIL activities, including all summer activities and in-season activities for the upcoming school year.
"Face shields may be superior to cloth face coverings in many circumstances, given improved ability to see mouth movements and improved air circulation," the UIL said.
If a school is in a county with fewer than 20 cases of COVID-19, the mandate does not apply, according to Abbott's order, however, districts are still allowed to require masks.
"Schools may, for example, allow students who are actively exercising to remove face coverings as long as they maintain at least six feet of distance from other students and staff who are not wearing face coverings," the UIL said. "However, schools must require students and staff to wear face coverings as they get into positions that allow them to maintain safe distancing.
Health screening protocols
Schools must require teachers and staff to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before being allowed to participate in UIL activities each day.
Teachers and staff must report to the district if they have these symptoms or are tested positive for COVID-19. They also must report if they came into close contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19.
Any person, including student, staff or visitor, must wait the 14-day period until they can return to campus or any area where UIL activities are being conducted.
"Before visitors are allowed access to areas where UIL activities are being conducted, school systems must screen all visitors to determine if they themselves have COVID-19 symptoms (as listed in this document) or are lab-confirmed with COVID-19," the UIL said.
Schools are allowed to prevent any person who failed the screening criteria from being admitted into school facilities or sites where UIL activities are being conducted.
Any equipment should be thoroughly disinfected before and after each use.
"If a student uses a piece of equipment, that equipment should be thoroughly disinfected before another student uses it," the UIL said. "Schools should limit the use of equipment to further reduce the risk of spreading the virus."
In a FAQ section, the question says, "If we have a group of volleyball, football, or basketball players etc., do we have to disinfect the ball or sport-specific equipment each time an individual touches it?"
The UIL says "From a sport-specific standpoint, the equipment should be disinfected once the group of is finished using it."
Marching band-specific guidelines
The UIL guidelines for marching band are similar to other stated guidance: monitor for symptoms and maintain 6-feet social distancing. Protocols are the same for any COVID-19 positive case and disinfecting equipment.
"For the purposes of marching band rehearsals and practices, schools must require students, staff, and visitors to wear face coverings when entering and exiting facilities and practice areas, and when not actively practicing," the UIL said.
"Face coverings must be worn anytime six feet of distance cannot be maintained unless it is not practical to do so while practicing. Schools may, for example, allow students to practice while playing wind instruments. However, schools must require students and staff to wear face coverings as they get into positions that allow for safe spacing."
Indoor workouts are only allowed up to 50% capacity.
For sports-specific instruction, competitive drills with multiple students on offense and defense are allowed starting July 13. Schools must require all students not actively exercising to wear face coverings.
"Any equipment, such as sports balls, should be regularly disinfected during workout sessions," the UIL said. "This equipment should not be shared between groups. After a group has used such equipment, that equipment should be thoroughly disinfected before being used by a different group."
The sports-specific skill sessions may have specific sports equipment, but contact equipment is not allowed. Go here for details on restricted equipment.
Strength and conditioning sessions shall include only drills, instruction and exercise. No specific sports equipment shall be used during strength and conditioning sessions, such as footballs, volleyballs, dummies, sleds, contact equipment, etc., UIL said.
Strength and conditioning sessions shall be no more than two consecutive hours per day, Monday through Friday.
A student shall attend no more than one session per day.
When not actively exercising, students and staff should maintain at least 6-feet social distancing except for reasonable safety considerations, like spotting while lifting weights. Schools must require students who are not actively exercising but spotting to were a face mask.
When actively exercising, students and coaches should maintain at least 10 feet of social distancing from all sides when possible.
For outdoor sports activities, schools should limit the number of participants based on the available space to allow for proper social distancing between students and staff.
No shared food or water is allowed. No clothing or towels may be laundered on-site or shared during workouts.