Around 40 students from around Prince Albert rallied in front of Prince Albert-Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave’s office on Wednesday, March 11. The students were rallying because they would be affected by the loss of extracurriculars if teachers begin sanctions on Thursday, March 12.
The loss of extracurriculars and before and after school supervision is part of sanctions announced by the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) as part of an ongoing labour dispute with the province. The two sides have been in negotiations for ten months. A sticking point remains class size and composition. On Wednesday, the province announced a new offer that would see teacher salaries rise higher over the next few years. The STF has said, though, that they would not be bought, as they have concerns about growing classroom complexity amid a new integrated learning model and a reduction in classroom supports.
Teachers voted 90.2 per cent in favour of job action with a 96.6 per cent turnout.
Students involved in all types of extracurricular activities were present including musical theatre and athletics — specifically basketball.
Hoopla and basketball playoffs were cancelled by the Saskatchewan High School Athletics Associaton (SHSAA) later in the day after the organization’s Wednesday deadline passed. Students from three high schools — Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI), Carlton Comprehensive Collegiate and St. Mary’s High School were present at the rally.
“I support and I speak for the students of our province who are highly involved in extracurricular activities at their schools and how these are essentially being taken away from them,” Grade 11 St. Mary’s student Tatum Young said.
“For all students but especially those senior students in Grade 12 whose extracurriculars affect their university applications and their futures. I am involved in my school arts, my school musical, people are involved in sports and it’s their last year, their last show, their last concert, their last everything and we can’t let that be taken away from them.
“It is nice to see three high schools coming together from sports and arts and all different programs uniting for a common goal,” Young added.
Young explained that the show must go on and the musical theatre production will continue.
“We are going to work it out and we are going to put on our show. We are going to do everything in our power so that we can have our show and our concerts and everything that we look forward to,” she explained.
Nearly every player from the PACI Golden Bears senior boys basketball team attended the rally. The Golden Bears have advanced to SHSAA Regionals and want to see their season continue, according to Grade 12 player Brandon Sayese.
“For PACI it is a big thing that we are making it to regionals and also the first time our team has been successful. It will hurt a lot if it just ends,” Sayese said.
He explained that he and three other seniors who play on the team are disappointed that their season may not continue.
“I came today to hopefully share my voice, share my opinion and hopefully to get the government and teacher bargaining teams to come to an agreement,” he said.
As well, all six Grade 12 players from the Carlton Crusaders senior girls’ basketball team attended the rally. When speaking after the rally Bria Howden became emotional because of the impending cancellation.
“This is our last season for six of us and we are doing really good and it kind of sucks that this is done for us for many of us this is the last time we will play basketball and it is just like dumb. It just sucks that this is how we have to end. We were expecting better,” Howden said.
Fellow Grade 12 player Alex Soyko, who has already secured a basketball scholarship, figures that other students will have opportunities to advance in the sport taken away.
“I know some of the students are looking forward to having coaches from other colleges come watch them play in this during Hoopla and during our regionals because it’s a really big deal and they are all livestreamed. So some of those opportunites can be taken away from students because they won’t get the chance to show what they can prove. It’s towards the end of their season and they worked really hard and they put all their work to show what you have worked towards and that is what’s getting cut off,” Soyko said.
Taryn Izsak agreed with her teammates explained that she loves the sport and has built many friendships on the team and put in many hours of work on the court.
“It is so hard to understand that it is just over because of something like this,” she said.
The rally included speeches by a number of students and after it concluded signs from the rally were taped to Hargrave’s office and left in the snow out front.
Students were there to use their voices and Young encouraged them to do so.
“Every student should know that they have a voice and that it is not hard for them to speak up, get in contact with anyone who has authority, get in contact with the Minister of Education, your MLA, anyone in the government that you can. You have a voice and you are free to use it,” Young said.
With around 40 students in attendance the turnout was seen as positive.
“I wish that there would have been more but this was a really great turnout,” Young added.