ARLINGTON, Texas — Multiple North Texas schools are already dealing with cases of COVID-19 in their summer strength and conditioning programs and, at the same time, refining state-mandated precautions and safety measures.
"You've got to teach social distancing not just the drill," Martin High School football coach Bob Wager said. "Kids hadn't seen each other in 80 days they wanted to go hug each other. And you can't do it."
After weeks of planning and practice, Martin High School opened its voluntary strength and conditioning program. Approximately 600 students, including Wager's own children, showed up with new rules and procedures in place.
Students arrive to campus at specific locations and are grouped in "pods" of 12, with a single coach assigned to that pod.
Red dots painted on sidewalks leading up to the athletic facilities show students where to stand six feet apart.
A QR code, taped to the school sidewalks in multiple locations, allows students to use an app to fill out a self-screening form each day to alert staff if they have any symptoms.
"Everyone travels as a pod," Wager said."From the time that they arrive in the parking lot until the time they get back in their car and leave, that pod of 12 always stays together."
A system that Wager said proved invaluable when a student tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
They shut down the program for two days and contacted every student and parent.
"So the contact tracing was very simple for us," Wager said of the group of 12 that student was part of. "They have the daily check-in that we check COVID symptoms. We take their temperature."
With the student reportedly doing well, and several of the 37 coaches assigned only to social distancing and sanitizing, they had enough confidence to restart the 2-hour daily program on Thursday morning.
"And we are dotting every 'I' crossing every 'T' with great attention to detail," Wager said. "The health and safety of their children, our student athletes, is our top priority. And it's always been our top priority."
Priorities and precautions at smaller schools too.
Krum ISD in Denton County reports that it had two students test positive for COVID-19. So, they have increased their use of an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer to every day, and have decided to suspend the voluntary strength and conditioning program until at least July 9.
"When we reopen, we will be having temperatures checked before the athlete can enter into the facility," said Krum ISD spokesperson Taylor Poston.
Students will be grouped in pods of 15, exercise and weight equipment will be wiped down after each use and hand sanitizer stations will be installed throughout weight rooms and building entrances.
"We've taken every precaution as a community and every precaution we can as a school district," Poston said. "And we're going to keep taking precautions, and we're going to keep looking for areas we can improve and do the best that we can to keep everyone safe."
Summer strength and conditioning programs began this month with specific COVID-19 guidelines issued by the UIL and TEA. They include that the workouts must be voluntary, that there be no locker or shower access, that hand sanitizer and hand washing stations be readily available, that surfaces be thoroughly disinfected, and that students be pre-screened for COVID symptoms every way.
Wager, meanwhile, praises his Arlington ISD student athletes for adjusting to this new normal.
"They are doing a phenomenal job of being coachable and taking this very very seriously," he said, while promising that his coaching staff will continue to refine the extensive safety measures already in place.
"Not only to maintain that trust, but to continue to see that trust grow. We're going to do this well, extremely well," said Wager.