MISSION — During a scheduled board meeting Wednesday evening, Mission CISD officials decided to delay a vote on a return date for on-campus practices for high school athletics, which will put the district on a similar schedule and trajectory as many other Rio Grande Valley school districts, as they attempt to sort out the safest time and manner in which to return to the fields and courts of play.

The Mission CISD board agreed to postpone a vote on potential resumption dates for on-campus cross-country, football and volleyball practices after Mercedes ISD and Rio Grande City CISD joined a growing list of RGV schools and districts that have announced they will try to restart fall sports on their respective campuses in late September.

The school board’s decision, which was backed unilaterally by board members, was based predominantly on the quality of data and information available to it at this time.
Mission CISD sent out a survey intended to gauge fall sports preferences among its parents and student-athletes at Mission High, Mission Veterans and the district’s four middle schools.

The Mission school district was left in a difficult position, though, when only 446 families out of a total of 1,634 surveyed responded in any fashion, leading to speculation that some may have been unable to access or find it.

Of the 446 respondents, 73.32% of parents and student-athletes indicated that they wanted to play fall sports if given the option to do so. Roughly half of the respondents represented middle school families while the other half were parents and student-athletes from Mission High and Mission Veterans.

But since only 27.29% of families surveyed answered in either direction, Mission CISD board members decided to wait until late September before making any final decisions, when it will consult with the district’s superintendent Dr. Carol G. Perez.

“Education and athletics are within the realm of the superintendent’s decision making; it is not part of board policy. So in reality, the reason it was posted to the agenda was so that we would have a forum to also provide information and so forth in much more detail … but the responsibility in making these decisions rest on the administration and the superintendent ultimately,” Perez said during the board’s public Zoom meeting.

“At this time, we know that we need to continue to monitor the situation. We have data, so within the next week or so we will be able to provide information to our parents, our students and our staff,” she added. “We will be sending a letter to parents and staff, and also providing a press release. We will continue to take all stakeholders’ points of view (into consideration) within the decision-making process.”

Mission High and Mission Veterans parents and student-athletes have been among Texas and the Valley’s most vocal proponents of finding a workable but safe path forward for fall sports competition this school year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eagles and Patriots’ parents and student-athletes started a hard-copy petition, which was filled with signatures from more than 200 households within the district, aimed at preventing Mission CISD officials from further delaying the return to fall sports practices until their Sept. 9 board meeting.

A smaller group of about two dozen student-athletes and parents representing cross country, football and volleyball athletes from Mission High and Mission Veterans also conducted a socially distanced protest outside the Mission CISD headquarters building on Aug. 29.

Mission CISD’s announcement could also still have profound impacts on a few other Rio Grande Valley school districts that have yet to clarify their stance on the upcoming fall sports seasons, namely Edinburg CISD and PSJA ISD.

Two of the four PSJA ISD high schools, PSJA High and PSJA North, Mission High and all four Edinburg High schools — Economedes, Edinburg High, North and Vela — are what remains of District 31-6A after La Joya ISD schools (in this case La Joya High and Juarez-Lincoln) announced they were withdrawing from fall sports competition this school year because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus and community spread within the city of La Joya and its surrounding areas.

While representatives from all three districts maintain that the health and safety of student-athletes, families and their respective communities remain their highest priority, sources both inside and outside this trio of districts, who wished to remain anonymous due to the fluid nature of internal discussions, say that their decision making could very likely become tied at the hip.

Those sources have characterized it as a marriage born out of circumstance and some degree of necessity since one district’s decision at this stage could dramatically alter the feasibility of pulling off fall sports at schools in the other two districts.

Edinburg CISD and PSJA ISD have each yet to make final determinations on whether fall sports will be played or when on-campus practices for them may resume.

The Monitor has reported that Edinburg CISD officials are considering Sept. 28 and Oct. 5 as potential restart dates for on-campus fall sports practices with a vote planned by the district’s board sometime in the near future.

The Monitor has also previously reported that PSJA ISD has been taking a “wait-and-see approach” to more completely assess the situation and available data on hand. The district has been considering Sept. 14 as its voting date, although a combination of those same sources and Mission CISD’s decision to delay any vote on fall sports resuming indicates that this date could be pushed back to late September to give district personnel more time to thoroughly evaluate conditions.

Email: amcculloch@themonitor.com

Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch