After weeks of effort, practices and competition, Haliburton’s winter student athletes are outraged at the prospect of their seasons getting cut short due to a board decision amidst labour unrest.

“All the blood, sweat and tears to get there and just, nothing,” junior girls volleyball player Kiera Casey said. “It’s so emotionally hard.”

Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) is managing an end to extracurriculars during the school day. Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) was the only board in the province opting to do this due to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) pulling back from on-calls Jan. 20 amidst its labour dispute with the province.

The board has expressed concerns about classes getting covered if teachers are absent due to extracurriculars, now that union members will not cover for absent colleagues. The result is HHSS teams are unable to play games or tournaments during the school day, including playoff qualifiers and championships.

“It’s very upsetting,” Grade 12 student and co-captain of the senior girls volleyball team Rebecca Archibald said. “I’m pretty upset that they’re taking my way to actually be okay in school.”

TLDSB has asked for activities to be rescheduled. But Kawartha District Athletic Association chair Kathleen Carson said although they are willing to try and accommodate some regular-season games, it is not possible to reschedule championships, mostly due to time constraints.

“There are significant challenges to overcome and there is no universal solution for all sports or events,” Carson said. “We truly hope that as many league games can be rescheduled and that a solution is reached prior to any championship phase.”

District manager of corporate communications Catherine Shedden said the board relied on teachers to provide 318 on-calls across 12 instructional days in December to cover 159 classes. There was also 245 supply teacher events, an average of 20 people needed per day. The supply teacher list currently has 147 people, 54 of whom are unavailable in semester 2.

“We are concerned that we are not able to cover off all the absences required of our teachers, Shedden said.

But union representatives and students alike have pushed back and expressed frustration, given other boards are continuing sports while facing the same lack of on-calls. Games are already being hit, with volleyball teams missing tournaments and the boys hockey team having a road game cancelled Feb. 4.

“It sucks. We all want to just play sports and have fun,” hockey player Isaac Little said. “Really sucks that politics are getting in the way of that.”

Archibald said people might look down on high school teams. But she added students learn a lot of different skills. She added there are limited options for competitive sports nearby.

“We live in Haliburton. You can play club but it takes two hours almost to get to any closest club,” Archibald said. “I’m upset because I want to play as long as I can before I’m not in school anymore.”

Parents are also expressing outcry. A change.org petition asking TLDSB to reserve its decision has amassed more than 600 signatures.

As the labour dispute has continued for months, resulting in schools closing for strike days, Archibald described feeling helpless as a student.

“I feel like there’s nothing I can actually do to change it because it’s such a big issue,” Archibald said. “I feel small.”

“For the first time ever, I’ve been hoping to not have school cancelled,” Little said. “We want to play sports.”

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