By Darren Lum
Competitive inter-school athletics is making a full return to Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) now that the province announced it will lift many of its mandates to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Effective March 21, which is the first day back from the March break, the area high school and all schools in Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) will be open to visitors, including student athletes from other schools.
HHSS principal Chris Boulay said although there has been in-school opportunities for athletics this winter, there has been an improvement in the overall mood at the school since the announcement of the province’s lifting of mandates.
“And truly, you know, the vibe at the school, especially with the mandates changing and some of the measures loosening, it certainly allows our students and staff to grow a greater sense of belonging and spirit. And that’s really, really important to both the student population and our staff,” he said.
He added badminton has already started and plans are underway to prepare for girls’ soccer and track and field.
The track and field team will begin its training on Tuesday morning after the break and its coaching staff includes Karen Gervais, Ginny Marsden, Josh Kimble, and Al Hough.
The badminton team has been training since March 1, with the seniors coming out and then a little more than a week later joined by the juniors. Combined, there has been an average of close to 50 senior and junior players coming out. The coaches are Jason Morissette for the junior team and Bob Smith for the senior team. One scheduled date for a home tournament is on April 4 when the Red Hawks host a Kawartha qualifier. There is another tentative home tournament, but that hasn’t been confirmed. This year’s soccer team’s coaching staff includes Courtney Cook and Amy Klose.
On the day of the announcement by the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore, the TLDSB sent a letter addressed to student families that students, staff and visitors will no longer be required to wear a mask when in a TLDSB building as of March 21.
Individuals are welcome to continue to wear a mask. “We ask that individuals be kind and respectful of the decisions made by others in all areas of personal protection,” it reads
It added visitors will be permitted in school buildings and proof of vaccination is no longer required for essential visitors, agencies and other non-staff workers.
Boulay said the mood at the school now is different when compared to the autumn, and even since December. He said teachers are also excited about being able to coach teams, which will compete.
“They’re engaged and they’re excited to be able to bring their skill sets to allow kids to expand their athletic experiences, and there are outdoor sports, which I think has another layer of comfort when I think of soccer and track and field. Badminton is still indoors, but I think our coaches are excited to get back at it. Get our kids competing,” he said.
He continued, saying, “We’ve always had a positive atmosphere in our building, but we anticipate being able to celebrate all of our collective efforts in taking care of one another, but also celebrating how far we’ve come over the two year span. And, we said, certainly, we’d be able to feel that and hear that and see that in our halls and in our classrooms.”