By Gord Bowes • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
Student athletes thinking about switching to Catholic high schools so they can play sports are being advised to think twice.
With organized sports on hold during the current labour strife in the public school system, some students are looking at transferring so they can participate in their favourite athletic endeavour.
High school sports governed by the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association continue to run, but Pat Daly, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, says it's not as simple as attending a new school to get on the field again.
"I would strongly, strongly advise parents and young people who are considering it to look at the (HWCAA) constitution," said Daly. "Even more important than that, talk to a principal or they may make a decision based on bad information."
All sports in Hamilton's public school system were cancelled in early December as teacher unions instructed their members to halt involvement in all extracurricular activities.
Last week, the province used Bill 115 to impose contracts on union locals, which had not already reached an agreement with their respective school boards.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation is meeting this week to discuss its response to the move. It's possible the union could allow teachers to return to coaching this week, but it's also possible school athletics programs could be cut for the remainder of the year, and possibly next year.
Chris Newman, sports convenor for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, said if teachers decide this week to resume extracurricular activities, the public board could resume its sports schedule as early as Monday.
If nothing changes, however, championships in some sports could be cancelled, starting with boys water polo. That championship is scheduled for Jan. 17.
Daly says in general the HWCAA constitution mandates students who transfer to a new school in the Catholic system are required to sit out a year if they have previously competed in a sport. Some exceptions are made, said Daly, such as if a family moves into a school's catchment area. Those cases are reviewed by the superintendent responsible for school sports.
Daly was hesitant to talk specifics involving the public school board, such as whether a student at Sir Allan MacNab who wants to take part in track and field this spring would be eligible if they transfer to St. Thomas More. If they have not played a particular sport before, it shouldn't be a problem for them to attempt to make a team at their new school, he said.
Newman noted the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations also mandates a one-year break for anyone who has previously played a sport.
Daly said so far there is no sign of increased student transfers to the Catholic board for the spring semester, which begins Feb. 1.