Comox Valley Schools has re-opened sports at a practice level, but as the coronavirus wears on, inter-school play continues to be put on hold.
“We’re being very cautions to ensure that we don’t open things up too quickly, given what we’re seeing in other parts of the province,” said Paul Berry, SD71 director of health and safety. “But we absolutely want students and staff who have huge passions around particular sports to be able to get back to practising, and working with those students to at least be poised and ready if we do see a downturn (in COVID numbers).”
As members of BC School Sports, local schools are guided by a ‘Return to School Sports Plan’ document, which places the Valley in Stage 2 – Intra-School activities. School reps have been meeting regularly to implement a plan to focus on providing students with active opportunities in a safe environment.
“We finally felt as administrators across the three schools, and Lake Trail and Cumberland, that we were at a point that we could start up and do some offerings,” said Brian McAskill, vice-principal at Highland Secondary.
The Comox school started with clubs such as Interact, incorporating protocols such as signup sheets in case of contact tracing. This positioned the school to start volleyball and cross-country, the in-season sports.
“Another big factor for us is the community as a whole, the north Island, the cases are pretty low,” McAskill said.
He notes that staff fully understand that students need an outlet, in terms of physical activity and camaraderie in a team-like atmosphere.
“And the staff, it helps them as well. It does look quite a bit different. I use the term, ‘physical activity with skill development.’ It’s a positive for everybody.”
Highland can train within learning cohorts — grades — with proper protocols in place.
“The numbers are really good. It’s a key player in students mental health,” McAskill said.
After the third day, he said staff noticed students were “upping their step, so to speak.”
Isfeld Secondary has also rolled out intra-school play by grade, by day, within a cohorted environment, principal Sean Lamoureux said. Teacher-coaches are facilitating volleyball under health and safety guidelines that prohibit spectators and sharing water bottles, among other measures.
“At the beginning of December the sport will switch to basketball,” Lamoureux said. “At this stage we are not playing games but choosing to focus on healthy activity and safe opportunities over competition between schools.”
McAskill doesn’t anticipate matches between schools or tournaments.
“There is some modified game play,” he said.
On the flip side, if COVID numbers increase, he said the extra curriculars would be the first thing shut down.