WECHU recommends delay of all extra-curricular school activities

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is strongly recommending to local school boards and private schools, that all extra-curricular activities, including sports, clubs, field trips, and other non-essential activities, within all school settings be delayed until at least October.

Health unit CEO Nicole Dupuis said in a news release on Wednesday the recommendation was issued “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Windsor and Essex County.”

It includes both elementary and secondary schools.

“It was not a decision that was made lightly. We have always been talking about how critical it is for children to be in the schools,” Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said.

With a fourth wave washing over the region, the health unit added the recommendation in an attempt to keep schools open.

“Especially the younger ones 12 and under, they’re not even vaccinated and with how quickly Delta spreads we definitely don’t want it to be entering the school system,” Dr. Ahmed said.

After hearing the news, a lot of disappointment was expressed in the sports community.

“I just want to play basketball,” Alisha Murray, a Grade 12 student at Kennedy Collegiate said.

“Frustrated. I was excited but then I just heard the news today that we have to wait until October. It’s just tired."

Coaches are left questioning the benefit.

“You can’t put two kids on a tennis court or six kids on a volleyball court or cross-country outside, you can’t do any of those sports, it just doesn’t make sense,” Sandwich Secondary Track and Field coach Rob Moore said.

While parents and coaches are disappointed, parents are also worried about the impact on their kids’ mental health.

“Indoor I certainly understand, but if you’re shutting down outdoor sports right away it’s gonna be really hard for the kids,” Egidio Mosca, parent and president of Caboto soccer, said.

Dr. Ahmed acknowledged the difficult choice.

“Extracurricular activities are also very, very important for children’s development, mental development, social development, and many other skills that is needed but it’s a choice we have to make,” he said.

The WECHU has also updated its School Reopening Toolkit to be shared with boards shortly.

Recommendations within the toolkit align with those which were in place last year and include:

  • No in person assemblies (virtual gatherings only)
  • No in person staff meetings (virtual gatherings only)
  • Indoor mask wearing for all students attending in person learning (including JK/SK classes) at all times.
  • Physical activity classes should take place outdoors as much as possible with additional restrictions.
  • Limit the amount of non-cohort contact that individuals have throughout the school day.

“The WECHU is committed to the ongoing review of these recommendations as case counts are monitored in the coming weeks and months,” said Dupuis.