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School sports pause in some areas, continue in others

Student-athletes in the St. Paul Education region continue to practice and play league basketball games, while students who attend NLPS and LCSD schools can only practice.
The last complete high school basketball season wrapped up in March of 2020, just ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. / File photo

LAKELAND - Amid another increase in active COVID-19 cases across the province, this time due to the Omicron variant - some area schools have scaled back school sports, while others have simply taken a step back from tournaments but continue to play league games.

Schools across the Lakeland are taking part in the basketball and curling seasons. Within the St. Paul Education region, school sports continue to take place, although the division has chosen to take a step back from participating in any tournaments.

League games and practices continue to take place in junior and senior high schools. Superintendent Glen Brodziak explained that public health measures do recommend limiting some extra curricular activities.

He noted that some schools have shut down practices and games, but with community sports still taking place such as hockey and dance, school sports will also continue to take place in the St. Paul region, said the superintendent. 

In December, there were talks of starting to let parent spectators in to watch their children play sports, but that has been put on hold, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. Instead, many games continue to be livestreamed, to allow for parents to watch children virtually. 

While there is no contact tracing taking place in schools anymore, Brodziak said teams that notice they have multiple student-athletes with similar symptoms may have to take a pause. 

For students who attend Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS), there are no games taking place.

"Practices are continuing, but we paused participation in games and tournaments," said NLPS communications officer Nicole Garner.

For students who attend schools within Lakeland Catholic School Division, the situation is similar, with practices continuing but no games happening.

"Lakeland Catholic has paused all inter-school athletics, as recommended in the most recent guidance document provided by Alberta Education," according to Meagan MacEachern, communications officer with LCSD.

She added, "Our division will review this protocol in the third week of February." 

The effects of the changes are being felt at the school level, with many schools normally hosting annual basketball tournaments in January and February. 

In a note to coaches from across northeastern Alberta last week, Aurora Middle School's sports director Wayne Mah said that while he isn't outright cancelling the day-long event, there's no guarantee it will take place. Aurora Middle School is located in Lac La Biche and is part of the NLPS region.

 "I will not cancel our Feb. 5 basketball tournament yet because there is possibility that this mandate will be lifted by then," Mah told coaches. 

Aurora isn't the only school in the region in the 'wait-and-see' mode. Schools across the province are facing similar challenges as provincial officials and local school authorities try to plan for any number of outcomes.

*Story was updated on Jan. 17 at 1:15 p.m to reflect that LCSD schools were still holding practices.

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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