With the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association releasing a new set of Return-to-Play guidelines earlier this week, questions quickly turned to where local sports are currently at — and the answer showed just how much effort is going into making the correct decision in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Derrick Huschi is the commissioner for high school football in the city. He’s also the Prairie South School Divison Superintendent of School Operations for North K-12 schools and 9-12 schools and as such has had a front-row seat with regards to preparations currently being put in place.
Prairie South has worked closely with the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division in their planning, with a series of meetings between a wide range of stakeholders set to culminate Friday when the associated parties aim to put together a plan going forward.
“It is what it is, and there are some inconsistencies that we’re working on,” Huschi explained. “We don’t totally understand some of the stuff and we’re not like community programs, we have to make sure we align with the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan and Return to School plan 100 per cent. That adds a little bit more of a dynamic to it all.”
The key to the whole process is finding a solution that works and is as safe as possible for everyone involved. What that looks like remains to be seen, but there’s always the haunting spectre of COVID hanging over the proceedings, and what might happen in light of certain decisions.
“What effect could it have in a school if something does happen?” Huschi queried. “If it’s a student in a community and we’re talking about one student, that’s one thing. But if it happens to be a whole bunch of kids in one building, that changes the whole dynamic again. So we’re working on it, but just don’t have the definitive answer.”
Here’s where things stand at this point.
The Saskatchewan School-Based Administrators and the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation are of the position that schools should not be entertaining extra-curriculars at this point, while the Saskatchewan Health Authority has yet to pass down clear guidelines for extra-curriculars in schools.
That ‘do we, don’t we’ goes down to individual staff members locally. Some are all for getting back on the field and in the gym, some remain concerned that doing so is taking an unnecessary risk, going back to the ‘what if’ scenario of an extra-curricular-connected outbreak.
“So we’re trying to juggle all those things to find what’s best, plus we have all our other re-open plans,” Huschi said.
“We sent out a survey to all of our staff last week, asking ‘what are your priorities’ and we got some feedback. Holy Trinity is doing the same thing. Then they met with their board, we’re meeting with our board, then the local teachers associations are meeting, and we’re bringing all that information together on Friday and we’re going to sit down and see what our stakeholders are telling us for the next steps.”
Some things might be clarified before that meeting if the Saskatchewan Health Authority releases a rumoured update to the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, but that remains up in the air.
It’s all part of steady progress to this point, with the two school divisions taking an incremental approach to the ever-evolving situation.
“So we don’t want to get too far ahead, we want to make sure we’re working in the right direction,” Huschi said.
If the green light is given, from a sports point of view plans are in place and facilities are booked for a relatively quick start to the football, soccer, cross-country and volleyball seasons. The only question is to what form the leagues would take — mini-leagues intra-school, or by grade, how many aside in each sport and so on.
“So there’s a lot of different things in play right now, and we’ll have to see what decisions are made,” said Huschi.