Return-to-football plan debated by GECDSB

Greater Essex County District School Board Director of Education Erin Kelly and Board Chairperson Alicia Higgison preside over a special meeting on September 1, 2021. Image from GECDSB Meetings/YouTube.

The English-language public school board in Windsor-Essex debated the future of football as it has begun preparation to start a new school year.

The Greater Essex County District School Board held a special meeting Wednesday night, with a discussion on the 2021-2022 return-to-school plan on the agenda. However, with high school football being sidelined for school boards this fall, the organization of a potential football season during the school year went centre-stage.

The board voted to adopt a motion by board trustee Julia Burgess to send off football helmets for certification as soon as possible, with the hope that football could be played safely before the end of 2021.

A similar motion was introduced earlier by trustee Cathy Cooke, later withdrawn, out of concern for the board’s football players, who have been sidelined for almost two years.

“We’ve [the GECDSB] always had players that got scholarships,” said Cooke. “To say to them that you’re not going to play…let’s let them play this year. Certification can be done.”

The Ontario Physical and Health Education Association had recommended that football be postponed due to the time needed to certify helmets. The certification takes six weeks under normal circumstances. That is followed by at least ten full-contact practices with padding before league play could begin.

There had been discussion among local school boards to move football season to spring, but that move would conflict with spring sports such as baseball, softball, and track.

On top of that, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit recommended earlier this week that all extracurricular activities in schools be delayed as Ontario experiences the fourth wave of COVID-19.

The school year is scheduled to begin on Tuesday across Ontario.

—with files from Millar Hill