The Selkirk Senior Girls Thunder volleyball team. Photo submitted

The Selkirk Senior Girls Thunder volleyball team. Photo submitted

Family of Selkirk student athlete upset that trip to provincials will not be allowed

Board says student safety comes first

Both the Selkirk Storm Senior volleyball teams won their Zone Championships this past weekend. In most years, that would mean it’s on to provincials, however for at least the girls team, a trip to provincials are in doubt.

School District No. 6 has a policy in place governing overnight trips by student athletes. Part of it is a risk assessment before the trip, which rates the safety of the destination by number of COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days, the ability to maintain separation and whether the event is open to the public or not. Higher risk destinations are rated Red and the advice is the trip should not proceed as planned.

Family members of some of the athletes on the Selkirk Senior Girls AA volleyball team are upset that an upcoming provincial tournament in Abbotsford has been deemed unsafe to attend.

While it may be a moot point right now, as the December 2 tournament may indeed by cancelled due to the flooding, family member Jim Warriner appealed to the board to change their decision.

“The Board of Trustees of SD6 (Rocky Mountain) will not allow them to compete at the provincial finals December 2 – 4 in Abbotsford because it is a Red Zone. Selkirk is the only school that is not allowed to participate, according to representative of B. C. School Sports. The same happened at a recent tournament in Kamloops where Selkirk was the only team forced to withdraw because it was declared a Red Zone. This provincial competition in Abbotsford is the only chance these girls will have to demonstrate their talents to possible future universities, colleges, scholarships, etc.

“These trustees put the health and safety of students and staff ahead of all else, according to a letter from Superintendent Shipka. Apparently they are the only Board to do so as there are nine zones, 16 other teams invited to this provincial competition.

“It is extremely unfair to these girls to deny them their opportunity by restricting them to our bubble wrapped district,” Warriner said. He is urging parents of student athletes to talk to board members about the policy.

Other family members have come forward as well, saying the board’s thinking is backward. Mike Betker says he has the support of many other parents when he questions why it is only the SD6 athletes who will not be attending provincials. Fernie, which finished second and is in District 5, will be attending.

“I have two daughters on the Senior Girls volleyball team. As Jim has stated they recently won their zone championships in a commanding fashion and deserve to go to the assigned provincials. They have put their blood, sweat and tears into this team. Not to mention that for the grade 12’s on the team, this will be the only time in the last two years they will have an opportunity to represent themselves to post secondary scouts and schools for scholarships. Don’t take this opportunity from them. They deserve better.”

Board Chair Amber Byklum issued the following statement on behalf of the board, backing their decision and risk assessment.

“At the beginning of the school year the District was not allowing overnight field trips. At that time, vaccine cards were being introduced and it was not yet determined as to whether school districts in BC would be subject to those new restrictions. Later in the month, requests for overnight field trips were beginning to surface from our International Student program as well as from sports teams across the district. In an attempt to allow those trips for students, a District Practice – Risk Assessment was developed using an evidence based approach to ensure that the trips would be safe for students and staff alike.

“At the October meeting of the Board of Education the District Practice -Risk Assessment was presented and unanimously approved which would allow the district to open up opportunities for overnight field trips. The District Practice Rick Assessment Tool is to be used as long as the pandemic status and provincial and local health restrictions are in place.

“The District Practice was provided to Principals and the International Student Program Coordinator following the meeting. At the time of distribution, the trip planned for Kamloops was approved because it met the criteria. A few days prior to the tournament, the community shifted from a yellow zone to a red zone which according to the approved risk assessment, meant that the trip would be cancelled.

“The District puts student, staff, volunteer and community safety first. We have taken an evidence based approach to combatting COVID 19 throughout the pandemic. Our district has had significant success throughout the pandemic with low case counts in schools compared to our neighbours.

“The District Practice – Risk Assessment is an evidence based approach to decision making that allows for equitable opportunity across the three communities that make up SD6.

“After hearing a presentation from our Health and Safety Officer, the Board of Education supported the continued use of the District Practice – Risk Assessment Tool as the foundation for decision making for all overnight field trip requests putting the health and safety of staff and students at the centre of all decision making decision.”

However, Betker says that’s not good enough.

“According to my contact with B.C. School sports, we are the only team for the provincials that is being held back from the tournament due to it’s school district policy. And I cannot get an explanation (nor can Jim Warriner) as to why that is.Telling us it is policy is not acceptable. Tell us why it is the policy. Tell us what the policy based on. What medical information was used to make this decision. Tell us why is our policy different than the majority of the other SD’s. It is not Interior Health’s policy, and I understood we get our medical direction from them? Tell us something.”

READ: Selkirk senior girls volleyball team wins first two tournaments of season

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