School gyms set to reopen to public use; Nov. 16 targeted for LHS gym

Health and Wellness Minister Zach Churchill in a Nov. 2020 photo. (Healey file photo)

Re-opening of school gyms to community use announced on Nov. 3

DARTMOUTH: While 50-plus school gyms would reopen to community access beginning this week, those in the Lockview family of schools will not be doing so until at least mid-November.

The reopening of schools to community public access was announced Nov. 3 by Education Minister Zach Churchill at a socially-distanced press conference at the Halifax Regional Centre for Education. The presser also followed all COVID19 health guidelines with participants all wearing masks except for when they were speaking at the podium.

Schools in the Lockview High area (including Beaver Bank) are set to reopen to community access on Nov. 16. However, for all the schools reopening the community access will be restricted to the gyms and washrooms/changerooms.

“We know the important role school facilities have in our communities and we’ve been working to ensure we can safely reopen to community access,” said Churchill. “Physical activity and sport are vital to our well-being, particularly during this difficult time.

“As the weather turns cold, it’s important for community members to have safe spaces to bring these activities indoors.”

Zach Churchill, Education Minister. (Healey photo)

Nova Scotia is allotting $5.5 million of federal funding from the Safe Return to Class Fund so regional centres for education and Conseil scolaire acadien provincial can hire additional staff and ensure that access is contained to the appropriate area of the school.

The additional cleaning also ensures students will come back to schools that have been cleaned in accordance with public health COVID-19 protocols following a community sporting activity.
To ensure equitable access to facilities, rental fees are being waived for this school year.

Regional centres for education and Conseil scolaire acadien provincial have posted a list of school gyms now open for bookings on their websites. These lists will be updated as more schools become available.

The Halifax Regional Municipality handles bookings for HRCE. Doug Hadley, spokesman with the HRCE, said HRM was contacting clients and rebooking them in for their time space, if they were going to keep those.

Jamie Ferguson, CEO of Sport N.S., was pleased to hear the news.

“Countless sport organizations rely on these facilities in order to provide sport programs for thousands of people across the province,” said Ferguson. “We appreciate the work that has been done by all parties to ensure our children will once again be able to safely participate in sport and reap the physical, mental and social benefits sport can provide.”

Jason Trepanier with VNS. (Healey photo)

Jason Trepanier, the executive director with Volleyball N.S., spoke at the announcement at the HRCE.

“The vast majority of volleyball clubs in Nova Scotia use school gyms to offer their programming and I can tell you they are incredibly excited about getting back into schools,” he said. “We’re especially happy for our youth, as we all know sport helps children grow into amazing leaders and outstanding members of the community.”

Basketball N.S. executive director Katherine Brien said they were thrilled that the province was allowing community access to schools.

“The benefits of sport are crucial parts of our physical, mental and social well-being, key factors in helping us all cope with COVID-19,” said Brien. “The majority of our groups use our schools across the province to facilitate programming and this will allow our clubs and leagues to get back on court safely.”

Brad Lawlor, executive director with Soccer N.S. commented about the opening.

“Community access to school gyms will allow many children the opportunity to participate in the game they love, while benefiting from the physical, mental and social aspects of our game,” he said in a release.

Once the news officially was announced and word made its way to the Fall River area, there were many happy student-athletes and their parents that at least they would get to play the sports they love, even if there is no spectators allowed.