High school sports return to DSBN
High school sports are ramping up at District School School Board of Niagara schools.
“We are very excited to have athletics running because we know how important it is for our students and their well-being,” said Helen McGregor, the DSBN’s superintendent of curriculum and student achievement secondary. “We also know sports are so important for so many of our students from an equity perspective (for students) that cannot participate in community sports. We really want to focus on maintaining safe opportunities for our students.”
Activity started in earnest this week.
“We have approved all the fall sports to start their practices and what we have done, with Rina’s (DSBN athletic convenor Rode’s) support of course, we have worked out very specific guidelines so that they fall within the ministry and public health guidelines,” McGregor said.
Football teams held mini camps in August and started practice the first week of school but the other sports were not given the green light until Tuesday. Fall sports played at the high school level are football, tennis, golf, cross country, girls basketball, boys volleyball and girls field hockey.
All the sports will need to follow COVID protocols.
Some of the protocols are specific to the sport but all sports must: follow masking guidelines; students have to screen for COVID symptoms; social distancing has to be maintained; unnecessary touching such as high fives is not allowed; there has to be separation on the benches between players; hand sanitizers need to be used; and, there’s a limited number of people allowed in changerooms.
“It’s all of those sort of normal COVID protocols that exist and that have been outlined to us by the ministry and department of health,” she said. “And the list goes on.”
For outside sports, ministry guidelines say players can be unmasked if they are maintaining distance or if they are involved in strenuous activity.
“If they are running, that is a health risk to wear a mask whether it is indoors or outdoors,” McGregor said. “If they are inside the building and not playing basketball or volleyball, they have to have a mask on.”
There is no DSBN requirement that students need to be double-vaxxed to play sports.
“DSBN staff have to follow the provincial policies and guidelines so they either need to be double-vaxxed or they do twice weekly negative COVID tests,” she said. “The DSBN decided with safety in mind that any outside coaches and volunteer coaches must be double vaccinated, period, and all officials entering or participating with any of our students also must be double vaccinated. We have been working with our agencies and our partners to make sure that that happens.”
No spectators will be allowed at indoor sports and the DSBN is working on its policy for outdoor sports such as football.
“We are very much limiting access to our schools other than staff and students,” McGregor said. “We are doing that for the safety of our students and our staff so the same goes for spectators at this point in time.”
Schedules for all sports are being worked on with tennis and golf starting first because they are outdoors, there is limited contact between athletes and there are no outside officials.
“We are working through sport by sport and there are tentative dates for tennis and golf. They will be coming and our goal is to have competition for all those fall sports but once again we are following ministry and public health guidelines,” she said. “If the conditions or the rules change, that is what we are governed by.”
There are a lot of factors being weighed in all the decisions regarding sports.,
“Because the DSBN plays in the NRHSAA (Niagara Region High School Athletic Association) with other schools — French, public, private and Christian schools as well — we have to work our protocols out amongst all the different schools,” she said. “That is what we are doing right now.”
Once the DSBN has navigated its way through the fall sports, it will start moving on to the winter sports.
“The other thing I will say is there may be implications for some sports in outside venues if they require students or anyone entering to be double vaccinated,” McGregor said. “For swimming, for ice rinks, curling, hockey, etc., there may be some potential limitations for participation that are out there and are out of our control.”
Busing is obviously a factor in the successful running of high school sports.
“We are working very closely with NSTS (Niagara Student Transportation Services),” she said. “They have COVID transportation protocols that they follow so we, of course, are making sure that we operate within those protocols.”
Getting ready to launch the sports had required a phenomenal amount of work.
“It is so important and I will say a big thank you to Rina Rode who is our DSBN and NRHSAA athletic lead and we have created teams behind the scenes to work through these protocols for practices and then moving into games,” McGregor said.
Those efforts have been appreciated.
“The feedback from parents, students and staff has been incredible about how excited they are. I have seen some of the practices and to see the joy and excitement of youth participating in sport has been an awesome thing,” McGregor said. “You talked about the work and that work is for our students and for their opportunities, well-being and enjoyment. People realize how much they missed it.”