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Sports Mom Warns Comal ISD Isn’t on Top of Its COVID-19 Game

A Smithson Valley high school Ranger attends a strength-and-conditioning camp on Aug. 13. Twitter image.

On Friday, Comal ISD was forced to clarify its mask policy on Facebook after a series of videos it shared online confused parents about the ABCs of COVID-19 prevention.

“To clarify, students will not be required to wear face-covering during PE, recess or outdoor activities, provided they are maintaining social distancing. They also will be able to remove face coverings in the classrooms and other spaces when they can maintain a safe distance from the teacher and other students. We apologize for the confusion.”

Some parents of middle-school and high-school student athletes who attended district strength-and-conditioning camps over the summer say things are likely to get even more confusing on Aug. 25 when schools reopen.

They say Comal ISD is not on top of its game when it comes to alerting parents in a timely fashion about COVID-19 cases, that athletes aren’t social distancing, that coaches wield too much authority over students, and — worse — the whole system hinges on a phone app that asks 14- to 18-year-olds to self-report their temperatures.

Parents of athletes say they are afraid to openly discuss their summer experiences over the last month for fear of retribution by school administrators and especially by coaches, who can bench student athletes at any time for any reason.

MyCanyonLake.com asked the Open Comal County Schools Safely Facebook page to find someone willing to share their story.

A Canyon Lake mom whose high-school son plays a popular contact sport agreed “very reluctantly” to be interviewed, and only on the condition of complete anonymity.

“Normally I stay out of this stuff,” she said.

‘Sports Mom’ said she decided to speak out after another child, who had run a fever since Monday, Aug. 3 tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Aug. 5. Parents were not alerted about the situation until Friday, Aug. 7 via an email automatically generated by a Rank One Sport Plus Health app. That email stated that two students who recently participated in a strength-and-conditioning camp were in close proximity to a student who tested positive for COVID-19.

On Saturday, Aug. 8, parents received another pre-populated email from Rank One. It confirmed the student attended the camp and tested positive for COVID-19.

Sports Mom said according to a Facebook post that was shared widely between parents, the student’s mother on Monday, Aug. 3 commented that it wasn’t fair to keep her son home just because he had a temperature. It is unknown whether the student accurately reported his temperature on Rank One.

Sports Mom said the rumor mill went into in high gear the week of Aug. 3, and it’s impossible for coaches not to have known about the email. Parents were only officially alerted to the situation in a Friday, Aug. 7 email automatically generated by Rank One Sport Plus Health app.

“For three whole days, my kid was at risk.” –‘Sports Mom’

Students are required to load the app on their phones and use it to record temperatures and answer basic questions about whether they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Rank One’s Friday, Aug. 7 email warned parents that two students who recently participated in a strength-and-conditioning camp were in close proximity to a student who experienced symptoms of COVID-19. On Saturday, Aug. 8, Sports Mom said parents received a second pre-populated email from Rank One stating that a student who attended the camp on Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19.

She said Rank One emails usually show up in Spam folders, so it’s unclear whether all parents even saw the email. Coaches did not discuss its contents with parents ahead of time.

“You knew about this on Friday?” Sports Mom said. “They didn’t tell us for four days. It’s difficult for me to get to a place where I’m trusting the district, the superintendent, the coaches and the staff when they’re not telling us the relevant information in a timely fashion. The responsible thing to do is to tell parents on Tuesday…I don’t need them to tell me what they’re doing or not doing.

“For three whole days, my kid was at risk. I don’t know if he hung out with that athlete or that partner in weightlifting. For three whole days, they could have been spreading it.

“It seems to me like the moment you know, everybody should know because everyone should be able to make an informed decision. They talk real fancy and make it sound like they’re on top of this but they’re not, they’re not on top of everything. And it’s not fair. You’re putting parents in an untenable situation.”

“What’s to be gained from secrecy? If you just tell parents the truth, we’re going to get out from under this a lot faster than if you keep hiding it,” she said. “Just be honest about it.”

Sports Mom said she herself has comorbidity factors which make her high-risk for COVID-19 and doesn’t appreciate the added risk, “for what? So kids can lift a couple of more weights today? I don’t get that. Especially not at a time when we’re all supposed to be supporting one another and helping look out for each other. It bothers me to no end that we can’t trust the coach.”

She added she is not allowed to enter her church unless her temperature is physically taken at the door, yet boys ages 14 to 18 are trusted to honestly provide information that could impact their success on a team.

“You’re putting the entire burden on these student athletes,” Sports Mom said.

As the mother of two boys, she said she wouldn’t be surprised at all if students fail to self-report out of fear of disappointing coaches.

And if they lie to coaches, for whatever reason, what about other authority figures at school?

“If they don’t do what coaches say then they don’t do what teachers say,” Sports Mom said. “…they’re not going to listen to their math teacher.”

On Aug. 10, Comal ISD added a COVID-19 dashboard to its website that reports on COVID-19 cases at all campuses.

Aug. 11 was the official deadline for parents to notify Comal ISD whether to send their children back to schools on Aug. 25 or opt for online education.

“We had to make our decisions final by close of business today,” Sports Mom said on Aug. 11. “I feel like had I known that they were going to withhold information and cherrypick what they gave us in the way of information I would have probably chosen differently. For me to send my kid to school I have to have a high level of trust. I need to believe completely that you’re honest with me. Had I known it would be four days between positive COVID and disclosure, I would have said online.”

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