By Lethbridge Herald on September 24, 2020.
Students in the Lethbridge School Division and the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division want to get back into the game.
A crowd of students and parents gathered outside the Lethbridge School Division office Thursday afternoon, demanding the return of sports and extracurricular activities that have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the wait will be a bit longer with the LSD and Holy Spirit issuing statements Thursday that sports and extracurricular activities will remain on hold for now. The Lethbridge School Division board will meet again in mid-October to review the Pandemic Plan.
Last week, Westwind School Division announced they had received word from the Alberta Schools Athletic Association they could return to athletic competition, operating under the COVID-19 protocol set by the province.
The Raymond Comets and Cardston Cougars football teams will play a game at Comet Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m.
On Thursday, students set up camp outside the LSD office, numerous signs held aloft in support of the return of school sports and extracurricular activities.
“It upset a lot of people I know,” said Presley Heggie, an LCI student who spearheaded Thursday’s protest and plays basketball, volleyball, softball, track and field, and cross country running. “First of all, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Schools Athletic Association, everybody, has said we can do sports. Our superintendent just won’t let it happen. The mental health of these students and these student athletes matters and sports impacts it so much and some people don’t see that or realize it. That’s what I feel like is happening here.”
Fellow LCI student Ryan Evans — a football, track and field and basketball athlete — said he’s feeling the impact as he heads into his Grade 12 year seeking a track scholarship.
“I know myself and a few other guys at LCI are just trying to play and get some scholarships. A lot of universities are happy with what’s happening with me so far, but I need real laser times to get an accurate time so they can see what I’m really made of and I can’t do that without a season.”
Ryan Thomson’s son, Fraser, is a Grade 12 football player for LCI. His daughter, Annie, is a Grade 8 student at Gilbert Paterson Middle School who is in drama and choir and his son, Chad, is in Grade 7 at the same school and plays school and community sports.
Thomson said he has had good conversations with the LSD board chair Clark Bosch, as well as Superintendent Cheryl Gilmore.
“I’ve been exchanging emails with them for the last couple of weeks,” said Thomson. “I’m hopeful, but I’m actually quite discouraged and disheartened because their own pandemic plan states that in a pandemic the infection rate of students would be 25 per cent. That would represent 3,380 students, and to date in the Lethbridge School Division there have only been two infections. We’re far from that pandemic status, yet the board is very unwilling to really look at why extracurricular activities have been prohibited.
“To make it even more complicated, we don’t know what they’re evaluating. What else do you need to see? If there are no infections within our community or schools, what else are we waiting for?”
With an impressive athletic background of his own, Bosch said he feels deeply for the students and hopes they can have a season once the Pandemic Plan is revisited next month.
However, he pointed to the two COVID cases at Chinook High School that quarantined 140 kids and 20 per cent of the staff.
“Those kids were in four different cohorts, that’s why it was 140 kids,” said Bosch. “Let’s just say, worse-case scenario, the volleyball program at the high school I was principal of had about 60 kids involved. If there was a problem with COVID in a cohort like that those 60 kids would be spread across the whole school and those cohorts would have to be shut down and quarantined for two weeks under the current rules and you’d probably have to close the school. We just need to fight this thing and take care of this thing and I would like to see us proceed when it’s safe and proceed when it’s good for our staff and students. The time is not now.”
The Holy Spirit Division issued a release Thursday morning on the suspended activities.
“Holy Spirit Catholic School Division remains committed to following the established health measures and guidelines that were implemented to ensure that the first number of weeks of school are filled with opportunities for students to feel welcome and safe while they settle into new routines,” they said in a statement. “Though we certainly know that sports, fine arts, and other extracurricular activities are an important part of what makes school a great experience, our number-one priority at this time is to provide excellent student learning in an environment that ensures student and staff safety. The board of trustees will continue to monitor and review plans and will revisit the potential to engage in extracurricular activities over the coming weeks and months, as the situation continues to evolve.”
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