By Lisa Gervais and Kirk Winter

When the Red Hawks girls’ field hockey team took to the pitch at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Oct. 5 it was a rare inter-school match for this fall in Haliburton.

The girls will host another game Oct. 12 but that’s about it for school matchups, other than cross-country runners who are also entering competitions this year.

There’ll be no boys junior or senior football and girls’ rugby has also been sidelined for the autumn.

Principal Chris Boulay said the school’s athletics department is, however, easing back into fall extracurricular opportunities by offering a number of sport and fitness programs to engage students in physical activity and to help promote wellness.

“In addition to girls’ field hockey, the Red Hawk Running Club (x-country running team), the Hawk’s Nest fitness centre, and boys volleyball are underway,” Boulay said.

He added, “currently, volleyball is happening as an after-school skills development/activity, along with the fitness centre in the Hawk’s Nest.”

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board discussed sports during its Sept. 28 meeting and specifically how it plans to deal with transportation with a critical shortage of buses and what the protocol will be for spectators.

“Extracurriculars are back,” director of education Wes Hahn said. “We are glad they are back but they are voluntary. Not all coaches and teams are going to be running. We will respect if staff feel uneasy or anxious about running teams again.”

Participants will have to be driven by parents to competitions because “buses simply are not available because the driver shortage remains a serious issue,” Hahn said.

Before someone will be allowed to drive they will have to have a criminal reference check; a license search; and a check for liability insurance. Drivers will not be considered if they have not been double vaccinated at least 14 days before the event. If they are driving children besides their own, everyone in the vehicle will need to be masked. Drivers will be allowed to watch the event.

All coaches and referees will need to be double vaccinated.

Haliburton area trustee Gary Brohman asked if volunteer drivers would be reimbursed for gas. Superintendent Kim Williams said each school would make that decision based on their budgetary realities.

Brohman said parents are saving the board the cost of a bus, and “strongly encouraged schools to pay.”

As for spectators, Williams said “only players, coaches and officials will be in attendance.”

Williams said student participation is the priority for extra-curriculars this fall, and coaches should be devoting their attention to the competition and student safety without worrying about whether parents, friends and siblings in the stands are masked, properly distanced and behaving appropriately.

Hahn is also hopeful that some kind of inter-school sporting activities will be made available for Grade 7 and 8 students, possibly focused around soccer. Superintendant Jay MacJanet is working on that activity, in addition to encouraging intramural competitions within each school.

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