School gym closures leave parents, student-athletes frustrated

Emma Foye of Lockview High has a tight grip on the basketball as she jumps up to grab it before a North Nova player could get their hands on it in this Jan. 2019 file photo. (Healey photo)

FALL RIVER: Parents and student-athletes at local schools have been left frustrated with the closure of school gyms after 6 p.m., forcing many of those indoor sports to the sidelines when their seasons should be well underway.

While most outdoor sports can happen, indoor sports are being halted as the gym time they usually occupy falls after the gym closure time of 6 p.m. and on weekends. That’s the case currently at school gyms, such as those at Lockview High and Georges P. Vanier, and others across N.S.

The closures are because of COVID19 restrictions, say Center for Educations across the province.

But that’s not something many parents are buying.

Melanie Foye, whose daughter Emma is in her senior year with the Lockview High Dragons, said limiting gym time makes it impossible to accommodate sports as normal.

“It directly affects the high school athletes and also the younger athletes who participate in league sports outside of school as they can’t use the gyms like they have before Covid,” said Foye. “There are no junior high sports happening which is a whole other issue, such an important age to keep preteens active.

She said the closure of gyms at 6 p.m. and on all weekends makes it difficult for games to happen as coaches must work and fitting in a game between 4-6 is difficult. She feels extending the time to 8 p.m. doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

While the reasoning for the closure hasn’t been officially put out there, many feel it’s because of cost associated with hiring more custodial staff. That cost is the reason is absurd to Foye.

“It would take minimal effort to clean the gym, all teams bring their own gear and at most the bench door handles, and bathroom would have to be sanitized,” said Foye.

Student-athletes who spoke to The Laker said they are missing being with their friends and teammates and playing the sports they love. They don’t agree with the decision or the reasoning for the closure of school gyms.

Siobhan Ryan is a mom of two student-athletes at CPA High School in Bedford. She feels very strongly that closing the gyms after 6 is wrong and has been emailing her MLA and the HRCE about the issue.

“I hope we will see some positive changes for our kids in the next few weeks,” said Ryan. “I’m hopeful this issue will get resolved.

“I’m not sure I really feel this would be a cost issue either, so I am left wondering why gyms are still closed at 6?”

Melanie Foye feels the province has handled COVID19 pandemic very well and is thankful there aren’t many cases in the area.

“My daughter, Emma has struggled, she has missed out on a summer of representing her province at nationals like so many athletes,” said Foye. “Her sport is her happy place; she thrives with her Lockview basketball team and coaches and I think restricting gym usage is extremely unnecessary and damaging for our youth.”

She pointed to shopping that is happening, rinks being open, Casino N.S. opening, but is left bewildered sports that are indoors at school gyms can’t happen.

“We can’t stretch these restrictions to help our youth be active and healthy?” she questioned.

With this being Emma’s senior year, she had hoped to use this season to parlay it into being recruited to a post-secondary university playing basketball. But now the uncertainty of whether games will even be played continues to be on her mind.

“I just want these athletes to be able to play, I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” said Melanie Foye.

The Laker News sent a list of eight questions to the Halifax Regional Centre for Education on the issue. Communications spokesman Doug Hadley pointed us to an article that had just been posted by CBC N.S. about the province working on opening the schools to public access.

Speaking to reporters on Oct. 29 in a media scrum, Education Minister Zach Churchill told CBC N.S. that plans are in the works to allow public access to schools after hours.

“Our focus has been on getting back to school and making sure that’s going smoothly, and now we’re in a position where we can look at enhancing access,” said Churchill to Tom Ayers of CBC N.S. “We’ll have more to say early next week on that, on what that looks like specifically.”