Hamilton public board says school sports can be planned

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Published August 31, 2021 at 9:39 pm

Calling the situation “fluid,” Hamilton’s public school board has told schools they can start planning for the return of sports.

In a post published on Tuesday, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) said it has “informed schools that they can start to plan a fall sports season.” Extracurricular activities have been paused since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the winter of 2020.

The HWDSB says that it is following guidance from the Ontario Ministry of Education (MOE). The ministry allows for high- and low-contact activities, with masking is encouraged for indoor sports.

“We anticipate more information about which activities fall into high- or low-contact categories, as well as advice from sports bodies that will help us develop inter-school athletics protocols,” the HWDSB stated.

“Some sports may be modified due to COVID-19 prevention measures,” it added.

The board added that it will work with Hamilton Public Health Services to ensure its follows MOE direction “in a way that reflects our local context.” Hamilton has the second-worst COVID-19 positivity rate in Ontario.

High-contact indoor sports were initially not going to be allowed under the COVID-19 guidance that the Ontario government released on Aug. 3. Just a day later, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said those sports could go ahead, explaining the reversal came after “discussions” with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore.

At least one big-city school board is holding off on restarting sports. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is waiting to give athletics the greenlight.

The Windsor-Essex area, whose public health unit is the only one in Ontario with a higher COVID-19 positivity rate than Hamilton, will not have high school football this fall. However, this is not due to COVID-19.

The school boards there have said equipment safety was a primary reason for the cancellation. Football helmets have to be certified by the manufacturer on an annual basis to meet safety standards and teams also have to have a minimum number of full-pads practices before they can play a game. The school boards believed completing that process would leave too small of a window for a legitimate season.

In Hamilton, fall sports at the secondary school level usually include baseball, basketball (for girls), cross-country, field hockey, football, golf, tennis, touch football and volleyball (for boys).

Elementary school sports include 3-pitch softball, cross-country, swimming, and volleyball.

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