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High school sports jeopardized by possible teachers' strike

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In the event the dispute between Ontario teachers and the provincial government leads to a strike, high school sports will be cancelled immediately, OFSAA executive director Colin Hood said yesterday morning.

“If there is a strike, there will be no school sports because sports programs are part of the education program,” he stressed in a phone interview.

And because a strike—of any length—may have a bearing on scheduling, Hood said OFSAA already has prepared a “contingency plan.”

“OFSAA has [developed] back-up plans for championships in the event of a strike, which I've heard may last from one day to five weeks,” he noted.

“And we are prepared to extend or shorten seasons.”

Hood said schedules would be revamped once the teachers returned to work but also admitted it's possible a sports entire season may be completely lost if the strike is a lengthy one.

In fact, because NorWOSSA and NWOSSAA cover such a wide geographical base, NWOSSAA president Ian Simpson said this area is more susceptible to a shortened or cancelled season than those in more populated centres of the province.

“Absolutely,” replied Simpson when asked about the travel problems of condensing a season in Northwestern Ontario.

“It's easier to cram in a season in a few days in a city where you could play every night but it's different when your dealing with Fort Frances and Dryden,” he added.

Simpson hinted that because all three teams make the playoffs in NorWOSSA volleyball and basketball at the 'AA' level, the regular season may simply be transformed into playoff action if play is forced to be cancelled.

“But that's all speculation right now,” he added.

But Hood admitted OFSAA championships for volleyball and basketball, slated for Nov. 27-29, may be disrupted, adding it will be up to each association to decide a “fair” playoff format to determine their champions.

"We would ask that associations make the necessary adjustments to make sure the OFSAAs are run as close to schedule as possible.

“But I'm a born optimist, and we clearly don't want the strike,” Hood added.

Still, if the strike does happen, Fort High principal Terry Ellwood said students here will be forewarned of the issues and circumstances involved—and how the strike may affect the sports seasons.

“I just finished [writing] a letter to the coaches [yesterday] asking the coaches to explain the position to their players," said Ellwood. "I've been talking to kids in the hallway and they have a general idea.”

Simpson said it's up to each individual school—and its principal—to decide whether to inform students of the possible implications of a strike.

“It's a touchy thing in that you don't want to sound like an alarmist, and have the teachers leave themselves open to sound like they are telling the kids to choose their side or they'll lose their sports,” he stressed.

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