H.D. Stafford's Tyler Kelly (with ball) tries to fight his way through a pack of Abbotsford Middle School Huskies tacklers during the Skyhawks 39-0 victory on April 17.

Fate of high school sports up in the air

B.C. high school spring sport championships face cancellation after teachers vote to withdraw services

The fate of the spring seasons for various B.C. high school sports should be determined within the week.

“The championships start at the end of May, so that gives us five weeks,” said Sue Keenan, the executive director of B.C. School Sports, the governing body responsible for the delivery of high school sports in the province.

“We really want to do everything we can to ensure that the championships go ahead.

“If at the end of the day, we don’t have the resources or we don’t have enough people to stage and event, then the commission will make a determination on a sport-by-sport basis on whether they will be able to provide a viable championship or not.”

The organization held a meeting on Friday to discuss the results of the teachers’ vote earlier in the week in response to Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act.

Seventy-three per cent of the province’s teachers voted in favour of withdrawing their participation in all extra-curricular activities, including sports, graduation ceremonies and end-of-year celebrations.

A total of 21,625 teachers voted ‘yes’ compared to 7,846 ‘no’ votes.

“This vote sends a powerful message to government that they must re-think Bill 22, listen to the concern of teachers, respect our rights and invest in services to students,” said B.C. Teachers Federation president Susan Lambert in a press release.

She said the vote was an emotional one for teachers because the decision to withdraw from extracurricular activities was a wrenching choice.

“Teachers struggle with this because these activities bring so much joy to our engagement with students,” Lambert said.

“We know this will mean the loss of some highly-valuable activities, and we sincerely regret that.

“But we have to look at the bigger picture and the longer term.”

At this point, BCSS  is proceeding with the planned spring season for the 35,000 students involved in badminton, golf, mountain biking, rugby, girls soccer, tennis and track and field.

BCSS relies on the efforts of 15,000 volunteer coaches to run 18 sports, which conclude with 45 provincial championships. Of the 15,000 coaches, 58 per cent are teachers, but that number includes 15 per cent who represent private/independent schools.

Teams will need either parents, community volunteers or school administrators to fill the coaching void if the seasons are to continue.

Keenan said it will be up to each sport’s commission to determine whether that sport will proceed, and time is of the essence, as the zone championships approach.

“The next week will be critical for us,” she said.

BCSS, a voluntary non-profit society which oversees 425 schools, also stands to lose a significant amount of money.

“That is a nightmare unto itself,” she said. “I think that gets lost in the big scheme of things.

“We have all of the championship banners here ready to go, all the championship medals have already been pre-ordered. To stage these things, you are planning a year in advance.

“All those costs are already incurred.”

She also pointed out that most championship venues — such as Swangard Stadium — are outside of schools and have already been booked and paid for.

“At the end of the day, if (the championships) don’t happen, there is not only a loss to the students in terms of the championships, but financial loss as well,” Keenan said.

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