2nd email this morning.
For a little over a year, FIRST in Texas and all Texans, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and I think it is safe to say that we all have our stories about how we have all had to adapt and respond to various crises in our daily lives.
Our team of staff and volunteers at FIRST in Texas have been working for more than 11 months on the inaugural FIRST in Texas – Texas Cup 2021 that is scheduled to kick off on June 14, 2021 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. While this event was initially planned as an off season showcase of programs, it evolved rapidly to encompass the University Interscholastic League (UIL) state championship for both FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition. As well as our inaugural official state championship for the FIRST Tech Challenge program.
When we announced the Texas Cup, it was decided that based on science and legal restrictions, we had to keep capacity low, fully masked and socially distanced. While most of that is counterintuitive to a traditional FIRST styled event, it was important that we worked collaboratively with our teams and sponsors to deliver an event for students that is well within the relevant safety guidelines at the time of launch.
In the past 20 days, things have started to look much better for Texas and COVID-19 infection numbers continue to drop. As we have all recently seen, our governor has implemented a new Executive Order that now prohibits governments and public schools from mandating mask wearing starting June 4, 2021. With this new order, FIRST in Texas is again having to adjust its guidance to the teams in Texas attending the Texas Cup.
Safety has always been a top priority for FIRST in Texas and we want to make sure that everyone knows that for the Texas Cup a lot of review and honest discussions have occurred before issuance of the new guidelines that will be posted on thetexascup.net website on Monday, May 24, 2021.
As partners and key members of our team, I wanted to make sure that this was communicated in advance so you were aware as some of these changes are significant.
- All attendees will be strongly encouraged to wear masks, however, they will no longer be required.
- There will no longer be medical screenings at the entrances of the venue for students, coaches or guests. This includes temperature and symptom checks.
- We will no longer impose social distancing restrictions but will still display social distancing guidance via signage and messaging.
- We will open the entire second floor of the Alamodome to general admission. That means that teams can invite as many folks as they wish to fill up that space.
- We have adjusted the team attendance restrictions (how many can attend) to 13 per team.
- We will no longer require a COVID-19 negative test or proof of vaccination for attendees.
- Teams are discouraged, but not prohibited from visiting other teams at their pits.
We are still restricting the following:
- Teams may not decorate their pits and may only bring essential materials that can be taken in one load-in by team members.
- Teams may not adjust the pipe and drape for the pits.
- Teams may not stand around the field to watch the games. The only place teams can view the game are in the stands on the first floor.
- Media team members may not be around the game floor and will need to be in the stands as well.
We know that these changes are not welcomed by some and applauded by others. We worked very hard trying to find a middle ground that allows us to do as much safety as possible, but also be respectful of some of the positions our public-school teachers are in with the new order from our governor. It is important to also note that the Alamodome is a government owned facility and is subject to that same order.
We want all of our attendees to be safe and respectful of others. Again, we strongly encourage the wearing of a face covering during the event, respect people’s personal space and be Gracious Professionals if asked to move along by staff in an effort to avoid clumping of people in areas. We will still have several hand sanitizing stations around the venue for everyone to use. We will still ask everyone to wash your hands frequently, cover any coughs and respect everyone attending our event.
COVID-19 has taught us many lessons, with some of them having major impacts in our lives. For us at FIRST in Texas, it has changed program delivery for years to come. Please know that we take these changes very seriously and we want all attendees to enjoy their time at the Texas Cup; while respecting the fact that some of our attendees may still be very guarded with their personal safety.
Thank you all for being part of the FIRST in Texas family and without you, there would be no FIRST in Texas. Through partnerships, trust and transparency we will continue to provide a powerful and impactful program for all of our kids.
Executive Director - FIRST in Texas