Coppell hadn’t been able to conduct in-person voluntary summer strength and conditioning workouts since June 17 due to a mandate from the Dallas County Health Department.
However, that will change next week.
Thanks to guidance from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Coppell ISD coaches informed their student-athletes Friday that Cowboys athletics will be allowed to resume in-person voluntary summer strength and conditioning workouts Monday, according to Amanda Simpson, district director of communications.
Paxton issued a letter Tuesday about what local authorities can and can’t do when it comes to returning to school.
While playing an important role in protecting the health of school children and employees, local health authorities can’t issue sweeping orders closing schools for the sole purpose of preventing future COVID-19 infections, Paxton said. Rather, their role is limited by statute to addressing specific, actual outbreaks of disease. School officials, both public and private, are the appropriate ones to decide whether, when, and how to open school.
“Education of our children is an essential Texas value and there is no current statewide order prohibiting any school from opening,” Paxton wrote. “While local health authorities may possess some authority to close schools in limited circumstances, they may not issue blanket orders closing all schools on a purely preventative basis. That decision rightfully remains with school system leaders.”
Coppell, like all Dallas County schools who had been under the same health department mandate, couldn’t have held in-person practices until at least Sept. 8 before Paxton stepped in. But, after Paxton’s letter was issued, Coppell ISD administrators had the power to decide when athletes and coaches are allowed to work together in person.
The resumption of in-person workouts will help to level the playing field within District 6-6A as Coppell had been the only school that has to work out via a virtual platform – every other school is located in either Denton County or Collin County.
"I think most people realize that these kids need sports, especially if you've been a coach or been around high school sports,” said Mike DeWitt, Coppell head football coach. “I think the impact that it has on kids is huge. I think people realize that."
Paxton’s letter hasn’t changed the status of some Denton County school’s athletics programs.
When the Denton County health department recommended Monday that the 2020-21 school year begin online until Sept. 8, both Lake Dallas ISD and The Colony followed through on those suggestions, meaning students will be learning virtually until at least through Labor Day weekend.
What does that mean for extracurricular activities, including athletics?
Lake Dallas ISD Director of Communications Anthony Tosie said in an email Wednesday that in-person summer workouts are allowed to continue under the University Interscholastic League’s procedures that implement social distancing.
“All summer programs we have are currently ongoing,” Tosie wrote. “If that were to change, we would let families know immediately.”
At The Colony, girls athletic coordinator Colby Davis said no interruption is planned in the school’s summer workout schedule. The Colony, like all other schools in Classes 5A and 6A, is scheduled to start fall practice Sept. 8. Schools in Classes 1A-4A are permitted to hold their first day of practice on Aug. 3.
“As far as from an athletics standpoint, we’re still going on with the plans written by the UIL,” Davis said. “It was a little bit confusing, but didn’t have anything really to do as far as us, other than the start date of school.”
Other than a two-week pause from June 28 to July 13 to accommodate for the July 4th weekend and the potential spread of coronavirus, Lake Dallas has held Falcon Pride voluntary strength and conditioning workouts as well as team-specific skills drills.
But, with recent spikes in the number of positive coronavirus cases, the UIL on July 21 announced that the start of the fall season has been pushed back by one month – cross country and team tennis are allowed to hold their first events starting Sept. 7, volleyball squads their first matches on Sept. 14 and football teams their first games on Sept. 24.
Lake Dallas is scheduled to host The Colony in a preseason football scrimmage on Sept. 25 at Falcon Stadium in Corinth.
Per Coppell ISD athletic director Kit Pehl, Coppell has replaced its original Week Two opponent (McKinney) with a visit to six-time state champion Highland Park on Oct. 2.
The game schedules for all three schools’ football teams are being finalized.