CBE parents petition school board to reinstate junior high basketball season

A group of families say they're petitioning the Calgary Board of Education to reinstate the junior high basketball season after it was abruptly cancelled last month. 

Calgary Board of Education says unavailability of coaches prompted cancellation

Grade 8 student Will Sladek, in the blue jersey, is among the many disappointed CBE junior high school students who won't get to play basketball at school this year. (Submitted by Alysha Sladek)

A group of families say they're petitioning the Calgary Board of Education to reinstate the junior high basketball season after it was abruptly cancelled last month. 

Will Sladek, 13, has missed out on a lot of experiences over the course of the pandemic — like many kids his age. But things were looking up this school year with the return of school sports, says the student at William D. Pratt School.

Then after the winter break came bad news for junior high athletes. 

"We're mad because we were just allowed to do volleyball, and then when basketball started — which is like the sport that I really wanted to play — they just cancelled it," he said. "I was just really hoping that sports are going to happen."

'Difficult decision'

In a statement from the CBE, the school board said it was a "difficult decision" to cancel the 2022 inter-school basketball season. It said the decision was made in consultation with the Calgary Middle Level Schools Amateur Athletics Association, CBE senior leaders and middle/junior high school principals.

The CBE said it is unable to support inter-school athletic basketball for this age group due to the unavailability of coaches and replacements caused by illness and isolation, increasing student and staff absenteeism rates and the redeployment of teachers because of a shortage of substitute teachers.

"The CBE's top priority is to support in-person learning, and we are relying on our teaching staff to do this," reads the statement. 

"We know this is disappointing news for our athletes, families, staff and whole school community. While the season will not be continuing, schools are offering basketball clubs for our students to continue to play the sport and to develop their skills."

CBE alone in cancellation

A petition organized by Will's mom, Alysha Sladek, urges the school board to reconsider its decision. It has garnered more than 1,080 signatures since going live last week. 

The mother of five said she finds this situation particularly frustrating, not just because the season was cancelled, but because basketball seasons were not cancelled for CBE high school students or Calgary Catholic School District students at any grade level. 

"Then I started reaching out to friends in Edmonton and Cardston because they have kids the same age and all of them have said, 'We're still having games.' A lot of them are still having tournaments," she said. 

"The majority of the province is still allowing it, but CBE is not. So these kids are watching friends everywhere play and they're not allowed to. It's frustrating. It's sad. These kids have really missed out on a lot over the last two years."

'Why can't we figure it out?'

Will said it has been hard to see his friends and siblings continue to play.

"It's annoying because they get to have fun and get to socialize with their friends and play against other schools," he said. "And we just get to have a practice once a week."

His mother said she thinks there are solutions the CBE should pursue. 

"My daughter is in high school and plays on the senior girls basketball team there and what they've done is have three or four teachers that come and rotate through practices and games so that the kids can play, and they have a coach that's a volunteer from the community," she said. 

"And so I'm thinking, if they can figure it out, why can't we figure it out for the middle schools and let them play?"

The CBE said inter-school athletic program will be re-evaluated prior to the commencement of the badminton and track-and-field seasons to determine whether they can proceed.


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