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MCISD parents hold ‘let them play’ rally
It’s been a long summer for MCISD students. And with all MCISD schools scheduled to start their 2020/2021 school year next Tuesday, all online, there have been many obstacles for the district’s administrators and teachers to overcome in preparation. There will also be many changes for the students to adapt to. Whether or not one of those will be the cancellation of some, or possibly all, fall sports is yet to be determined.
Team tennis, cross country, volleyball and of course football are the sports that are currently on the COVID-19 bubble. Will the virus that has spread like wildfire throughout this nation and the world soon be claiming Mission schools’ sports, and other extracurricular activities, as its next victim? That is a decision that the MCISD board of trustees will have to make extremely soon.
Wanting to take into account the feelings of the students’ parents before making this difficult and sure to be controversial decision, the MCISD sent a survey out to the students’ parents asking for their feedback on whether or not they’d feel comfortable with their children participating in fall activities, and if they would, what start date they would prefer.
“The insights gained through the parent responses will continue to play a vital role in decisions that also take into consideration the status of COVID-19 community spread data for the county,” the district stated in a news release. “The Mission CISD administration and board of trustees is committed to making sure the parent voice is heard during this time and used in making decisions regarding student services while balancing the needs of the health and safety of students and staff.”
Wanting to make sure that their voices would be heard, a group of MCISD parents decided to take matters into their own hands by putting a petition drive together. Their plan is to collect as many signatures of parents in favor of having their children play fall sports as possible and presenting the signed petitions to the MCISD board of trustees at one of their upcoming meetings.
The petition drive organizer is Chris Von Wald. His son Cody is a sophomore at Mission Veterans Memorial High School and plays middle linebacker for the Patriots. When asked why he decided to do this, Von Wald said, “We’re doing this because my son wants to play and his teammates want to play. I’ve coached a lot of these kids in the Mission Mustangs since they were little. I’ve organized this to get parents out here to show support. We believe that it should be our choice whether we let our kids play, not the school district’s.”
The petition drive was a two day event that began with a drive-through petition signing at Brick Fire Pizza last Friday evening and ended with a Saturday morning rally at the MCISD central office property.
“We had a petition signing last night in which we had over 200 households sign the petition,” Von Wald said. “It was mostly the parents of varsity football and varsity volleyball players that came out and signed. The parents want their kids to play. It’s not every parent that wants their kids to play, but the whole point of this is to let those who want to play have that choice.”
Von Wald added that he is planning on presenting the signed petitions to the school board at their Sept. 9 meeting.
How many attended the Saturday morning rally in total is hard to say, but a quick count of those in attendance approximately an hour into the two-hour-long rally resulted in a count of roughly 15 – 20 parents and students. They had tables set up for the petition signing and many of those in attendance waved Mission Eagles and Mission Veterans Patriots flags and held homemade signs up along the edge of Bryan Road as cars drove by. Several cars honked as they passed by, in what was apparently a show of support.
One of the student athletes that attended the Saturday morning rally was Mission Eagles’ defensive lineman David Ortiz.
“Personally I think that playing football is a stress reliever for us and we need to relieve the stress caused by the pandemic,” Ortiz said. “There’s a lot that’s been going on, so the way I see it, we might as well blow off some steam by playing football. All my friends want to play.”
“We meet up sometimes to go to the park and play some speed ball,” added Ortiz. ”We have a heck of a time and we blow steam off there. My best friends and I have played football since I was like six years old.”
Even if Ortiz and his teammates are allowed to play, whether or not any spectators will be allowed into the stadium to watch them will still need to be determined. When asked if he would be ok with being allowed to play but there not being any spectators in the stands during his games, Ortiz said, “Personally I wouldn’t mind the idea of having spectators but if there aren’t any spectators I think that they should at least get something, such as online streaming, so people can see us play.”
Another parent that attended the Saturday morning rally was Marissa Gerlach. Her son, Kyle Gerlach, plays baseball and golf at Mission Veterans Memorial High School and is thinking about playing football.
“I’m here to support all athletes and bring back some sort of normalcy to the kids’ lives,” Gerlach said. “I’m looking at the whole child and their mental health as well as their physical health. And I’m here to support my team.”
Gerlach is part of a family that has a long history of attending Mission schools and playing sports for the Eagles and the Patriots. A history that goes back to her father-in-law, Ted Gerlach, who played baseball at Mission High all the way through her niece Makenzie Gerlach, a 2019 Mission Veterans High School graduate who was a star volleyball player for the Lady Patriots.
“We’ve always been big supporters of the Mission school district,” Gerlach said. “We’re very involved in the community. We all feel that it is our choice, our kids our right. We feel that we are at a point that we can bring some sort of normalcy back. We can proceed as planned. We can go forward with sports and go forward with school, but with caution of course.”
Even if the MCISD school board decides to let fall sports proceed as planned, there are several obstacles that will still need to be overcome. These include the fact that there is a directive by Hidalgo County judge Richard Cortez which does not allow in-class instruction and school activities to begin until Sept. 27. Then there’s the fact that the UIL (University Interscholastic League) has certification dates which need to be met for each sport. This means that there are deadlines for when the different sports’ regular seasons have to end in order for teams to be eligible for the state playoffs.
Here are the UIL’s certification dates for each of the fall sports: Team tennis Oct. 24, Cross country Oct. 31, Volleyball Nov. 17 and Football Dec. 5.
Even if MCISD sports teams begin play immediately after the Hidalgo County directive is lifted, the Lady Eagles and the Lady Patriots volleyball teams will only have seven weeks to get all their regular season games in before the UIL’s certification date and the Mission Eagles and the Mission Veterans Patriots football teams will only have ten weeks to do the same. While it would be possible to accomplish both of these, at least in theory, it would be cutting it tight, especially when the UIL has set Sept. 7 as the first day of football conditioning, Sept. 17-19 as the dates for the first scrimmage and Sept. 24-26 as Week One and Sept. 17 for volleyball scrimmages to start and Sept. 18 for matches to start.
A group of MCISD parents gather Saturday morning at the MCISD central office property making sure that their voices would be heard in favor of having their children play fall sports.