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Health Unit 'supportive' of ban on spectators for school athletics

'We know the decision of spectators not being permitted at practices or games has not been favourable in the community'
2021 09 19 No Spectators WFSS (Campaigne)
The bleachers remain empty for local school sporting events due to COVID-19 health protocols.

While the four local school boards work on a protocol to allow spectators for extra-curricular school sporting events, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit continues to back the decision of the boards to keep family and friends from supporting student-athletes in person.

"We know the decision of spectators not being permitted at practices or games has not been favourable in the community," reads a release from the four co-terminous boards (Conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord, Conseil scolaire public due Nord-Est de l'Ontario, Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board and Near North District School Board).

"We are diligently working on viable solutions to enable the attendance of spectators," the release continues, "which will follow all required provincial health and safety processes, including maintaining spectator logs for contact tracing, as a next phase of our extra-curricular protocol. Please watch for further news."  

During Thursday's media availability, Chief Nursing Officer Shannon Mantha confirmed the Health Unit's position in support of the school boards.

"Ultimately, school boards are accountable to students, parents, and the community for the health and safety of students — and they don't take that position lightly," said Mantha. "When activities are offered during school hours, as well as right after school, parents and the community expect the school to provide a safe environment."

The four boards and the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit "have been working collaboratively and diligently to introduce extra-curriculars as quickly as possible while keeping staff and students safe."

Via the Health Unit's supporting role, Mantha noted the boards' key priorities for its students are the continued safe return to in-person learning and resuming "all those great activities associated with school that promote their health and wellness," while also reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission among students and staff.

"We are definitely supportive of the current decision," on spectators, Mantha concluded.

Various schools in the area have provided live streams of games so supporters can catch some of the action. And, the boards have decided to allow media to cover and/or broadcast school board events. 

But, that is insufficient for North Bay's Dylan Allison. A petition he created is addressed to trustees of the Near North District School Board and has garnered over 2,200 signatures in the past month. It reads: "Other boards in the province are allowing spectators, we need to follow suit! Outdoor sports, arena sports and even limited capacity in gymnasium sports! Let’s get this silly rule overturned, and remind the board that there is an election this summer!"

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