McALLEN — Even though the school year has officially begun virtually for many school districts across the Rio Grande Valley, uncertainty still reigns supreme for the time being.

Administrators, coaches, superintendents and board members from all Valley school districts have been thrust into the deep end trying to figure out how or if to proceed with fall sports competition and avoid drowning in a surge of updates and new information.

La Joya ISD officially became the first Rio Grande Valley school district to take the plunge and call off fall sports competition for now due to COVID-19 and related-scheduling concerns on Monday, while McAllen ISD officials have reaffirmed their commitment to playing fall sports as currently scheduled under the University Interscholastic League’s amended athletic calendar.

Critically, La Joya ISD specified that it is “postponing” fall sports at this time with the potential to play football and volleyball down the road, according to a district news release.

Rumors circulated Tuesday morning that Edinburg CISD would be the next RGV school district to say it wouldn’t play football this fall.

That speculation was quashed, however, when multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation representing ECISD’s four high schools — Economedes, Edinburg High, North and Vela — told The Monitor on Tuesday afternoon that no changes had been made, as the district prepares to move forward with fall sports in late September and October.

Edinburg CISD officials also noted they will re-evaluate their stance again in mid-to-late September as coronavirus conditions in South Texas evolve.

Similarly, multiple sources close to the situation told The Monitor that PSJA ISD plans to make its next decision regarding fall sports on Sept. 14. The district has chosen that as its tentative “point of no return” date when it will make a decision one way or another.

Furthermore, multiple sources have told The Monitor that parents from all the different fall sports at Mission CISD schools have started a petition aimed at preventing any further delays or alterations to the existing fall sports schedule there.

Their position, in essence, is that parents can and should be able to choose to withhold their kids from participating in fall sports or other extracurriculars if they deem it too risky.

In their view, removing the option entirely should not be in the purview of school officials or local politicians. Multiple sources have also confirmed that a protest is being planned for Saturday with the time and place yet to be determined.

Additionally, The Dallas Morning News reported Monday and Tuesday that disgruntled student-athletes, coaches and parents have gathered at Dallas ISD’s headquarters to protest interruptions to the fall sports schedule there.

The exit of the three La Joya high schools — Juarez-Lincoln, La Joya High and Palmview — has also set off some immediate changes across the Valley.

For example, with the departure of La Joya High and La Joya Juarez-Lincoln from nine-team District 31-6A, the remaining seven schools — Edinburg Economedes, Edinburg High, Edinburg North, Edinburg Vela, Mission High, PSJA High and PSJA North — have already restarted the process of voting on a wide-ranging list of concerns in their respective district executive committees.

Every time a schedule is altered or another Valley school or school district drops out of fall competition, the RGV’s various DECs must revote on seemingly mundane items that include practice times, the length of halftime, junior varsity and freshman team schedules, and whose sideline is whose on game days, among many other concerns.

As it relates to 31-6A football, the departure of La Joya High and Juarez-Lincoln for this upcoming season could invalidate the geographic zones created by the district’s coaches just two weeks ago, as the remaining seven teams discuss playing a full-six game district slate now.

Increasingly, though, it appears as if Valley school districts that want to play will become tied at the hip in their decision making.

Other proposals that have been picking up steam since the La Joya ISD announcement are the potential for Rio Grande Valley school districts to band together to form an RGV-only high school football league, compete for city championships or retain the existing district structure and delay the start of the season, potentially into the winter or spring.

“If schools were to withdraw from UIL competition for Fall sports, it would not impede their ability to compete in UIL competition for Winter/Spring sports,” wrote UIL spokeswoman Julia Atkins in response to an inquiry from The Monitor. “Schools can decide to opt into UIL competition on either a sport-by-sport basis or school-by-school basis, that is their decision.”

Several Valley administrators and coaches have expressed support for these plans in theory, but many added that shifting football to the spring could have profoundly adverse and unexpected consequences on other sports, as many of the RGV’s assistant football coaches double as head coaches and assistants for baseball, basketball, track, wrestling and other sports.


Twitter: @ByAndyMcCulloch