Extracurriculars, sports left in state of limbo
By Darren Lum
Teachers, parents and students are disappointed by Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s decision to cancel all extracurricular activities during school hours at secondary schools.
TLDSB director of education Larry Hope shared the information with the board at its Jan. 28 meeting. The decision was made by senior administration in response to the strike action by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which moved to not allow teachers to cover for absent teachers.
“We know this is unpopular, as it has resulted in teachers not being released from their teaching duties to participate with students in league play or tournament events during the instructional day. We did not take this decision lightly and are aware that this is not an ideal situation. It is important to note, however, that our decision was made with the goal of protecting classroom programming to the fullest extent possible. For us, this means we want to make use of the limited number of secondary supply teachers to support classroom programming first and foremost,” he wrote.
The decision does not affect any extracurricular activity or event occurring after school hours.
OSSTF district 15 representative Colin Matthew was disappointed by the board’s decision.
A press release from the teachers’ union states: “The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) is engaged in provincial job action. None of OSSTF’s sanctions target extracurricular activities or field trips. These sanctions apply equally to all school boards in Ontario. The number of occasional (supply) teachers on TLDSB’s list is limited in the collective agreement between OSSTF and TLDSB in order to ensure that there is both adequate availability of occasional teachers and adequate work for those teachers.”
The press release also affirms the union’s commitment to voluntary extracurricular activities and field trips. It also said following the board’s meeting, parents and students questioned why the school board is the only one in the province to make this decision.
Jan Haedicke of Haliburton said the decision disappointed him and his son, a fifth year student at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School playing for the Red Hawks hockey team.
If the season is cancelled, his son, who was primarily motivated to attend school because of sports, will leave school and work, he adds.
Haedicke, a Red Hawks alumnus, wonders why the board is the only one in the province to do this.
TLDSB district manager of corporate communications Catherine Shedden told the Lindsay Advocate: “We cannot speak to the decisions of other school boards. We can only respond to the decision made by TLDSB. And in TLDSB classroom programming is our priority. In TLDSB we would have to collapse classrooms and have administrators supervising large numbers of students and classes in libraries and gymnasiums which is not conducive to our priority of maintaining optimal classroom programming.”
The board’s decision has also jeopardized the winter athletic season for schools such as HHSS because of the Kawartha District Athletic Association, which announced a Jan. 31 deadline stated in a letter to schools on Jan. 23. The deadline coincided with a membership meeting for members “to finalize the winter season schedules and playoffs.”
KDAA president Kathy Carson said an extension to this deadline was reached by the executive along with school representatives, believing it was in the best interest of student athletes.
“In the end we want the students to be able to participate for as long as possible or, hopefully, participate fully. We’re just trying to accommodate them. It would have been best if the board would, or could have allowed things to continue as with the other boards. Since not, I think that was what we felt [was] the best we could do,” she said.
There will be an effort to reschedule regular season games and competitions after school, she said.
“So the two teams are supposed to try and contact each other and see if they can make it work. Now some things don’t work. For example, wrestling is a five-hour a day event ... that might be different than a basketball or a hockey game,” she said.
The concerted effort is so students don’t feel they’re being penalized.
“Hopefully, something can be reached and maybe they can jump back in in time for playoffs, right? Maybe they can reschedule some games and maybe they can’t reschedule others. That’s going to depend on the sport and probably on the location of the game,” she said, referring to the challenges of booking an arena in town compared to a high school gym. “If they can’t make a game that doesn’t mean they can’t still join back in the playoffs later on, but time will tell.”
Part of the decision for the extension by the KDAA was also based on the different start times for playoffs, as volleyball starts next week while hockey begins at the start of March.
The Red Hawks basketball junior and senior teams will host the respective teams of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School on Thursday afternoon, starting at 3:30 p.m. This was possible because St. Thomas is not part of TLDSB, but is part of the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic School Board. This week’s Hawks hockey game against Holy Cross will go as scheduled at 4 p.m. at A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton.
Haedicke said former colleagues of trustee and former HHSS principal and long-time coach Gary Brohman were surprised he was silent at the TLDSB meeting where the decision was made.
When reached for comment about his silence and what message he had for coaches, parents and students, Brohman provided this prepared statement:
“I understand the frustration students[,] coaches [and] parents have concerning the cancellation of extracurricular activities. My wish is for provincial unions and government to settle their differences now not later so we can [get] back to normal schedules in schools,” he wrote in an email.
He said he has spoken at length with TLDSB chairperson Bruce Reain.
Haedicke said he can’t imagine a final school year without athletics.
“It is something you look forward to because not everyone is interested in the academics, right? So people who are into athletics it kind of balances it out. Without that they don’t really want to go to school anymore,” he said.
Besides HHSS, the schools affected by this board’s decision are Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School, Fenelon Falls Secondary School, Gravenhurst High School, Huntsville High School, IE Weldon Secondary School and Lindsay Collegiate Vocational Institute.
*Correction (Feb. 6, 2020): The original version of this story said that the board made the decision at its Jan. 28 meeting. It has been corrected to state that the TLDSB board was told of the decision at its Jan. 28 meeting.