Sudbury sports reopening bypasses Manitoulin Secondary School

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SUDBURY – On Wednesday, September 30, Sudbury District Secondary Schools Athletic Association (SDSSAA) announced that it would loosen its COVID-19 restrictions on secondary school athletics, a move that will not impact Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) because most of its sports are part of the North Shore Secondary Schools Association (NSSSA) league.

“I think Sudbury is going to try to get away with having their own local bubble but we won’t be able to join,” said Jordan Smith, program leader for sports and physical education at MSS. “It almost feels like they were waiting for us all (in outlying areas) to say ‘no, we won’t be joining this year,’ before going ahead with their local plans.”

Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) spokesperson Nicole Charette confirmed to The Expositor that many athletic events were resuming in the Sudbury area.

“With safety first and foremost, students in Rainbow schools will soon be participating in sports again. Physical activity and sport are an effective way to promote mental health and physical well-being,” she said, noting that Ontario athletics groups and public health officials have a pre-approved list of safe sports.

The green-lit sports include flag football, golf, cross-country running, volleyball and baseball, though any such activities have to be closely monitored for their adherence to health and safety protocol.

Teams for boys’ contact football and girls’ basketball are prohibited from competitions under phase three of Ontario’s reopening plan. However, those teams are allowed to resume some skills training as long as everyone follows public health guidelines.

“As always, health and safety remains the top priority as we look to offer as many sport opportunities as possible to students in Rainbow schools,” continued Ms. Charette. “As the pandemic progresses, we will continue to monitor the situation along with the SDSSAA and respond accordingly.”

Despite MSS being part of RDSB, which is largely centred in Sudbury, the school has traditionally played most of its sports in the NSSSA league. NSSSA is made up of schools in other boards along the North Shore of Lake Huron.

The only sports at MSS within SDSSAA are hockey and gymnastics, and Mr. Smith said it took considerable effort to get the Island hockey squad included in that league years ago.

Hockey is not among the returning sports at this time and restarting that sport would pose significant challenges. MSS is not permitting field trips and parents would have to drive their children into Sudbury for away games.

There has been some preliminary talk of starting up a mini-league between Wiikwemkoong High School, MSS and Espanola High School but any decisions on its feasibility remain uncertain at this time.

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CORRECTION Oct. 15: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that hockey was the only SDSSAA-afiliated sport at MSS. The school’s gymnastics team is also part of this Sudbury-based athletics organization.