Are extracurriculars ‘dead on arrival’ this year?

By Kirk Winter

Many students of all grades and backgrounds become involved in extracurricular activities at their school. Pre-COVID there was a myriad of activities available for students at minimal cost: sports, music, drama and clubs of all shapes and sizes.

Parents and students are wondering if, with schools reopening, will extracurriculars be returning too?

In late July, the Ontario government stated, “Organized sports and clubs have been given the green light to proceed if physical distancing can be maintained and equipment is cleaned regularly.”In Ontario, high school sports are governed by OFSAA, the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations.

The organization has formed a Return to Sport Committee with input from community sports organizations and public health officials. “We will be ready when it is safe to return to play,” said Nick Rowe, president of OFSAA.

In mid-August, Wes Hahn, the new director of education for Trillium Lakelands District School Board said he hoped that some school clubs might be able to operate virtually. He downplayed the possibility of sports where physical contact between participants is hard to enforce and social distancing would be impossible.

As one long-time high school coach noted, “I don’t think there will be much staff interest this year. Coaches as a whole are getting older, and teenagers are prime COVID carriers. Buses, change rooms, gyms and pools will be prime breeding grounds for this illness.”

Music ensembles face serious hurdles, too. “How can you socially distance with 40 kids in a music room?” wondered a music teacher. “How can you play a number of key instruments with a mask on? Extracurriculars are dead on arrival this year, and that makes me so sad.”

Officially sanctioned or not, extracurricular activities can only take place if teachers are willing to lead them, something that’s far from certain.

A veteran elementary teacher has put on numerous plays and pageants but just doesn’t see them happening this school year, saying such activities don’t feel safe for either teachers or students If those safety concerns aren’t addressed, the teacher added, “I will not be in my building one minute longer than I legally have to be.

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