Rocky View Schools has reversed its previous decision to ban its sports teams from competing in tournaments.
“We have implemented several measures related to sporting events and extracurricular activities to help keep these opportunities safe and accessible to our students,” read a Jan. 24 statement from the public school division.
“This included taking a brief pause to tournament style play while we monitored student absence data in the first two weeks of school this January. RVS extracurricular sports teams are able to return to tournament style play in addition to regular league play and practices, which were never paused.”
The reversal comes after RVS updated its Return to School Operational Plan on Jan. 11, including a caveat that sporting competitions would be limited to two teams at a time. That meant sports teams could not compete in competitions outside of the Rocky View Sports Association – the league that encompasses RVS teams from Airdrie, Cochrane, Chestermere, and Rocky View County.
A change.org petition created by Springbank Phoenix basketball coach Brian Hunter followed, ultimately generating nearly 1,500 signatures against the ban.
The topic was also discussed at Jan. 20 RVS Board of Trustees meeting, in-camera.
"Overall welfare of children should be considered," Hunter said, noting student athletes' attendance at movies, parties, and recreation centres put them in the same risk situation a tournament would.
Messages from those in support of Hunter's position echoed the sentiments that mental health of children is more critical than the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus among youth.
"There is no net COVID 'win' but real harm is done to children," Hunter said. "The only 'win' is that potential COVID transmission is not a liability for [superintendent Greg Luterebach]."
Reached after the decision was reversed, Hunter said he felt the advocacy work was a success. In addition to the petition, he said he sent letters and emails to both administration and RVS trustees to argue against the ban.
"I think from the kids' standpoint...they're going to get to play 20 more games instead of two more games. That's important for a lot of different reasons," he said, adding feedback from parents about his petition was overwhelmingly in favour, and it was an issue that "galvanized" the local sporting community.
"I would say it was 99 to one – maybe more than that – who were completely supportive," he said. "We're certainly at the stage in the pandemic where...it's spread around a lot and a lot of people have had it. We're starting to focus a little more on the damages kids have faced in the last little while and a little less on what COVID can do to you."
- with files from Scott Strasser/Airdrie City View