Extracurricular activities suspended in Sask. Rivers to start school year

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

Extracurricular activities including sports have been suspended in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division. During numerous updates at the board of education’s regular meeting on Monday, August 31, the notion that extracurricular activities would be suspended in the division to start the year was a topic of note.

“We are not cancelling. We have made the decision to suspend for the time being until we get some more information. The SHSAA (Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association) doesn’t have authority over school divisions — they are just a governing body,” director of education Robert Bratvold said.

Board chair Barry Hollick said that the province’s Education Response Planning Team has discussed extracurriculars. They said that while schools should be open, there shouldn’t be any extracurriculars hosted before Sept. 8. Transportation won’t be provided for any extracurriculars.

Hollick explained that the restart of school-based sports should happen after consultation with local medical health officials and that local areas have different rates of infection. Bratvold is consulting with local medical health officials and will provide guidance.

The board is also thinking about how best to get together for their own meetings. There are guidelines, but discussions with local medical health officials have offered no further direction. According to Bratvold, they will continue to meet in the Seminar Room at the Education Centre but have to make some changes.

“We want to be deliberate about it so we have decided that this is how we are going to meet. We are physically distant, we have got hand sanitizing practices and those sorts of things. But if something should happen that trustees are required to self-isolate we need something in place. You don’t want to exclude somebody, it might work out that will still be able to come to a meeting because the self-isolation period doesn’t overlap,” Bratvold explained.

One suggestion from trustee Michelle Vickers was adding an option to have trustees phone in if they are in isolation or the addition of improved speakers to make the meeting more accessible.

“We have done that before, not frequently but on occasions and done exactly that but we would have to have different technology because our speaker system is designed for the board room which is a space the third of this size. We can set up a system,” Brtavold said.

Also in his report, Hollick noted that the recently-announced money from the federal government is based on the number of students in the province. Divisions with large transportation budgets saw more savings and that money has to be spent first before applying for money. The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division has already spent their savings.

Hollick noted that September 30 is the enrolment deadline to calculate grants for school divisions. Concerns were raised that numbers might not be official and the school division’s funding could be adversely affected. There has been no plan articulated by the Provincial Government so school boards are waiting for a decision because it will impact everyone’s finances.

STF advises members not to volunteer for extracurricular activities

in a news release on September 1 the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) advised its members not to volunteer for extracurricular activities.

“Our priority as teachers and community leaders is to ensure the safety of our students as our schools re-open,” STF President Patrick Maze said.

“Significant effort has been undertaken to ensure safety of students such as cohorting, restricting travel and staggered start times. Providing extracurricular activities undermine these efforts.”

The decision of whether or not to proceed with such activities this school year has been left to the discretion of each school division. Teacher participation in extracurricular activities is strictly voluntary.

“It’s important to remember that when Saskatchewan students return to their classrooms on September 8, they will not have been in a classroom for over five months. Gaps in learning already exist at the beginning of a normal school year, and COVID-19 is only going to widen those gaps,” said Maze. “While we recognize the important role that extracurricular activities can have on students’ well-being, our priority has to be on their safety and education.”

As teachers, students and their families navigate the transition into the school year, suspending participation in extracurricular activities for the time being will allow everyone to focus on safety and education as they adjust to the protective measures the school divisions have put in place, the release said.