Local high school sports back, but some spectators need to be vaccinated

Basketball hoop and ball. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / ssuaphoto

The school boards in Lambton-Kent have announced that high school sports are officially back.

The St. Clair Catholic District School Board and the Lambton-Kent District School Board announced on Monday that secondary school athletics have returned effective immediately, but with some new public health safety changes for indoor spectators. Education Directors Scott Johnson and John Howitt said a key change is that all spectators 12 years of age and older must be fully vaccinated to attend indoor sporting events.

“Athletics is an important part of the high school experience and we enthusiastically welcome its return,” read a joint statement from the boards. “However, the resumption of sporting events will come with some important new changes, as we work to protect the health and safety of our athletes and spectators.”

The mandatory vaccines for spectators apply to all facilities used for sports and recreation, including schools. However, student athletes are exempt and don’t need to be vaccinated. The school board noted the vaccine mandate for spectators is a provincial direction.

“To be clear, the vaccine mandate for spectators comes at the direction of the Ontario government; not the athletic association, nor the St. Clair Catholic and Lambton-Kent district school boards. We are however required to enforce the new rules, which we are committed to doing,” the statement said.

The school boards said they’re currently developing a procedure and putting appropriate staff in place to review and verify vaccination status at indoor athletic events and spectators won’t be allowed to attend indoor events until further notice.

“This is a temporary measure, which will be lifted as soon as we have an established vaccination status review process and staff available to administer it,” said Johnson and Howitt. “We look forward to your cooperation and support, as we all work together to make our athletic programs safe for our student athletes and spectators.

In London, the Thames Valley District School Board is withdrawing from WOSSAA and OFSAA regional and provincial competition to better protect its students.

The public school board said the Lambton-Kent Secondary School Athletic Association has withdrawn from Season One competitions at the SWOSSAA and OFSAA level and will decide after season one is over if schools will compete in those competitions during season two or three. It’s unclear if local Catholic high schools will compete at the regional and provincial level.