Education dispute stalls school sports

School officials work to salvage fall sports season for Terrace students

Sports officials at two Terrace public schools are optimistic the fall sports season can be salvaged so long as the labour dispute between the province and teachers’ union is solved soon.

School was supposed to begin two weeks ago, but the provincial government and the teachers’ union have been locked in seemingly never-ending dispute over current contract negotiations since last spring.

As long as the dispute continues, on top of students missing important classroom time, school sports activities are touch and go, with some teams – namely those with community coaches – practising and preparing for the upcoming season and other sports programs on hold until the dispute is settled.

At Caledonia Secondary School, the senior girls volleyball team and Grade 10 girls team have been holding practises, with the senior boys volleyball team’s practises on hold – the coach is a teacher – until school is back in session, said Caledonia principal Keith Axelson in an email last week. And now that community soccer is wrapping up, Axelson said he will be speaking with the boys soccer coach to see if he would like to begin holding practises.

“There are obviously lots of issues around fall school sports that are up in the air with the teacher job action continuing, but I am hopeful that a resolution in the near future would allow the fall seasons of play to go on,” he said.

“Our senior girls volleyball team has several tournaments lined up for the fall and are hopeful that they will be able to go ahead,” he said. “Fortunately, most of the fall tournament play happens in October and early November, so if a settlement can be reached be the end of the month, I expect the fall season to be salvaged, although likely compressed.”

In Caledonia’s zone there are four independent schools that run sports programs, and he said he expects those teams to be underway and competing with each other.

A notice from BC School Sports – the body which sanctions zone play and tournaments in schools across the province – said they would proceed with the planned fall and zone championships schedule, and that they would monitor the situation and consult with stakeholders going forward. Teams need to have permission from their school and school district to participate in competition.

“There is nothing within BC School Sports that prevents teams from playing and practising during a strike situation if they are able to do so,” said Axelson.

Over at Skeena Middle School, vice principal Cory Killoran said officials are working to make sure teams and students are registered with BC School Sports so that athletes will be “ready to go once we’re back in session.” Dance programs and community junior volleyball practises are taking place on weekends and after school hours, as usual, he said.

And the second cohort of Skeena Middle School’s Pacific Rim hockey academy will likely see a shortened season, with parents of the nearly 45 students receiving a prorated rate to make up for lost time. Killoran said the popular program will be much the same as last year, with the added addition of a small bus to transport students between the rink and school. The bus will be a benefit to all sports teams, not just the academy, added Killoran.

Coach and teacher Frank Marrelli will once again be the academy’s facilitator, and last year’s dry land and on-ice coaches are set to return – if school ever gets back in session, of course.