Several Anderson County school districts voted this past week voted not to allow its students who use remote learning to participate in University Interscholastic League events and other elective courses.

This means students involved in remote learning cannot participate in any UIL activities, practices or performances.

Palestine, Westwood, Grapeland and Frankston Independent School Districts board members all voted in favor of the resolution – most coming by unanimous decisions.

“It would look like we're placing more value on athletics than academics if students were allowed to stay home and still play,” said Donald Jackson, Grapeland superintendent.

Elkhart Superintendent Dr. Lamont Smith will meet with district board members Monday to decide if they will follow suit. Contrarily, Slocum ISD Superintendent Cliff Lasiter said their district will allow their students to participate in both remote learning and on-campus athletics.

“Some students may not be able to control their learning situation,” Lasiter said. “We have kids who have invested a lot of money in some of their extracurricular activities and I would hate to exclude them.”

Though Slocum has allowed remote learning students to participate in athletics, their coaches will still have final say on whether those athletes can compete in games.

Slocum is also one of two Anderson County schools, along with Neches, who do not have a football team and many of their UIL events can be had with limited physical contact.

Decisions on Cayuga, Neches and Oakwood are forthcoming.

The UIL announced earlier this month that students who choose virtual learning will be eligible to participate in athletics and any other extracurricular activities, but it was at the discretion of each school district.

“If safety is an issue, if you choose to stay remote then you'll choose to stay remote,” said Superintendent Wade Stanford of Westwood ISD. “There are going to be people who disagree and I respect both sides. But if they don't feel comfortable coming back to the regular setting in school then we don't feel comfortable keeping them safe in extracurricular activities.”

Students decision to participate in traditional or remote learning at the start of the school year won't be set in stone. They will be able to make adjustments at the end of each six week period – as long as they notify their school two weeks prior to the end of the period, according to the TEA.

The UIL said that eligibility requirements for the first six weeks of school have been modified to allow a student to be eligible for the first six weeks if they accumulated at least two and a half credits since the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Schools may impose additional requirements.

Schools will have to develop policies for remote learning that “outline the criteria for determining if a student is passing all courses at the end of grading and evaluation periods.”

Untouched for now – football in Anderson County who has teams in 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A – will continue as scheduled.

Practices will start Aug. 3, games will kickoff Aug. 27 through 29, playoffs begin Nov. 12 and the state championships remain scheduled for mid-late December.

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