Student athletes will not be forced to be fully vaccinated in order to play sports, participate in activities or join a club.
However, there is a different set of rules for officials and frequent volunteers, who will have to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, an official documented medical reason for not being vaccinated, participate in an educational program approved by the Ministry of Eduction, and complete regular COVID-19 testing if not immunized.
Those are just a few of the rules provided in an 11-page document titled ‘Nipissing District COVID-19 Protocol for Inter-school Extracurricular Activities, Sports and Clubs’ that was distributed to school principals and athletic directors by the four area school boards.
The Nugget obtained a copy of the protocols, which include rules around facial coverings, physical distancing, self-screening, the use of facilities such as change rooms, vaccination disclosure for officials and frequent volunteers, spectators, student transportation and field trips outside of the region.
Emails to the Near North District School Board and Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board were not returned.
The province is making vaccinations mandatory in order to enter certain businesses deemed non-essential, such as bars and restaurants for indoor dining, gyms, movie theatres, sporting venues and concerts. This will come into effect Sept. 22.
Vaccinations are not mandatory for students to attend school or participate in extracurricular activities. Approved vaccines in Canada are only available to those 12 years of age and older.
“COVID-19 immunization is strongly recommended. Unvaccinated students may experience longer periods out of school activities, including practices, games and performances, if there is a case or outbreak,” according to the protocol document.
The list of protocols is not just for sporting events, but also extracurricular activities, performances and competitions.
Staff and students must wear masks throughout the duration of an exercise while indoors, except when it is unsafe to do so, and except in instances indicated in government guidelines.
Coaches, team officials and activity leaders also are required to wear eye protection, such as a face shield, if they are within two-metres of an unmasked participant.
“Staff and students are not required to wear masks outdoors unless they cannot maintain physical distance. Coaches, team officials and activity leaders are obligated to wear a medical mask if they are within two-metres of their student participants,” according to the document.
Students are advised to not socialize or congregate before or after an interscholastic sports activity. As well, there will be no spectators allowed to attend extracurricular activities, practices or games.
Hand shaking between teams at the end of a sports activity will not be permitted.
There also will be an emphasis on ensuring staff and students wash or sanitize their hands at the beginning of an activity, before and after breaks, and at the end.
All participants and activity leaders, including board personnel and community and parent volunteers, must successfully complete a COVID-19 self-assessment and be symptom-free prior to attending tryouts, team or club meetings, workouts, practices or competitions.
The protocols also permit the mixing of cohorts in extracurricular activities, including athletics.
“A record must be kept of all student participants, team officials, game officials, etc., as well, if staff and students use school transportation to travel to another location a seating plan must be submitted to the school principal,” according to the document.
Change rooms, including showers, may be used but with restrictions including creating a schedule to limit the number of people in a change room at one time, ensuring physical distancing and mask wearing, blocking off certain areas in locker rooms and ensuring there is time between games to clean high-touch surfaces before another team uses the space.
Schools will be required to develop entrance and exit plans for their facilities to minimize contact between outgoing and incoming teams.
Coaches, activity leaders or guest instructors who are not school employees are allowed access, but must self-screen, wear a medical mask, sign the visitor’s log and attest they have completed their daily self-screening. Visitor’s movements also must be limited to areas required for the activity.
“Day trips and overnight stays are permitted, however, mandatory vaccination rules must also be applied to all adult participants. All day trips and overnight stays will also be subject to current provincial and local health guidelines,” the document states.
It also states that plans must include specific measures on how to treat a participant who has developed COVID symptoms, including having a designated space to isolate a student away from all other participants and determining a method for how the student will be sent home.
Music programs are permitted in areas that are well-ventilated, with singing and the use of wind instruments also allowed. Artists should not share a microphone.
The document states theatre programs can go ahead, however, participants must wear their masks and maintain a physical distance of two-metres between them.