No more Calgary gymnasium, classroom rentals until 2020 ends

After-school sporting activities appear to be the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic in Calgary.

According to the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), gymnasiums, classrooms and other school facilities will not be allowed to be rented out to clubs, sports teams or other groups. This applies to all Calgary public schools, including both the CBE and the Calgary Catholic School District.

Dany Breton, CBE superintendent of facilities and environmental services, said because public schools are paid for by taxpayers, the decision was a joint one between both school districts and the city. Breton said they extended cancellation times and this will be in effect until the end of the calendar year.

Breton said because of COVID-19, cleaning would be required before the group meeting and after. In an effort to minimize risks, Breton said it was safer to cancel the rentals for the remainder of 2020.

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“If you look at a typical public rental, of course, it’ll be after hours and weekends… so normally, what we’d have is, as the students would leave, it would need to be under these pandemic circumstances and ensuring the proper cleaning of the facility before this group came in and then a proper cleaning after as well,” Breton said.

Breton said there is disappointment expressed but said the public does recognize that the school districts are operating under unusual circumstances.

Read more: Alberta school boards already have ‘flexibility’ on fall restart date: education minister

“There’s a disappointment in the fact that they’re not able to have access to these facilities as they have in the past. There is also a degree of understanding that this is exceptional and that at some point in time, we will be able to arrive at a new normal,” he said.

According to Breton, schools log tens of thousands of public rental hours each year. The facilities are actually used more during after hours and on weekends than they are by students learning in the classroom.

“[They’re] incredibly popular facilities that are solely integral and central to the community… The school jurisdictions and the city recognizes that tremendous value that these facilities bring to communities and we are working to reopen access, but just not right now,” he said.

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The cancellations come at a time when recreational activities and organized sports are already limited and many parents are unsure about starting up sports again, according to Kid Sport, a company that helps remove financial barriers for parents and their children.

Read more: Coronavirus makes sports risky. Here’s how to be safe outside

Kid Sport CEO Kevin Webster said about 30 per cent of parents are still not comfortable returning to sports based on health concerns.

“Some of the indoor sports that would normally be starting off in the fall [and] winter are challenged with space availability. So our families are looking at new opportunities and we’re trying to help make sure we’re a resource to answer questions and support those families,” Webster said.

He’s asking any parents who need financial help to reach out to them. He’s also advising parents who need advice on what types of activities are available to reach out to community associations.

“We want to make sure that sport is successful and that they’re able to find the opportunities that are positive in the lives of their kids,” Webster said.

The lack of extracurricular activities is a big blow to parent Jeff Ma, who told Global News that he’s concerned about fewer activities being available to his children.

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“Then there’s more gaming for the young kids… They are happy to have more iPad time, but we think it is detrimental to their long-term development,” Ma said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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