Some 100 students walked out of classes at Rainy River High School on Monday to protest the lack of extra-curricular activities there this year.
Numbers dwindled by yesterday afternoon, and today everyone was back in class, prompting principal Don McBride to say the situation was now under control, citing “communication as key” in quelling the protest.
“We’ve been meeting with students in small groups, and talked to them about their concerns and the issues at hand,” he said. “One of the things that has them concerned is that some schools have activities going, while others, such as ours, have nothing.
“And we talked about solving this by getting community members involved. We’re open to that and that might be the key,” added McBride.
On Monday, students left their classrooms just after the morning announcements, taking to the sidewalk outside the school.
They chanted “We want sports back!” and carried signs sporting phrases like “No sports. No students” and “We want our sports now.”
RRHS vice-principal Bob McGreevy initially tried to stop the students from leaving school, and then gave them the first period to express themselves under the condition they return to class by 10:15 a.m.
But many students did not return to class, and were penalized for skipping class, having to make up the lost class time through daily 20-minute detentions.
Since each class is 77 minutes long, it would take a students four days of detention to make up for one missed class.
Students at Atikokan High School and Ignace Public School (which includes high school) also walked out in protest Monday but reportedly were out in less force yesterday.
“There’s still a small group out there—about 30-40 students,” AHS principal Darryl Gannon said Tuesday afternoon. More than 100 walked out Monday.
All AHS students were back in class by this morning.
Gannon noted no disciplinary action—aside from marking students absent from class—has be taken.
“They’re trying to make their voice heard, and get some media attention,” he said. “I’m here to listen to their concerns, and give them any information I have.
“Of course, there’s negotiations going on right now between teachers and the [Rainy River District School Board] so we’ll have to see if there will be a change,” he added.
Like RRHS, AHS currently is offering no extra-curricular activities, sports or otherwise.
Mary Hickling, vice-principal of Fort Frances High School, said the school here has not seen any walkouts so far this year.
“And the reason for that is we’ve managed to keep many of our programs going through the help of parents and other community volunteers,” she noted.
The lack of teacher participation in extra-curricular activities stems from their battle with the provincial government over Bill 74, which gives them a heavier workload, among other things.