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Halton Catholic high schools will form own sports league

Posted Dec 06 2012 1:36am

Next week’s scheduled full withdrawal from high school sports by public high school teachers won’t leave Catholic students on the sidelines.

Peter Szpakowski, the phys-ed head at Oakville’s St. Thomas Aquinas, said Wednesday that the Halton Secondary School Athletic Association would offer an all-Catholic winter sports season if public schools are forced to suspend their teams.

“That is what would happen,” said Szpakowski. “But so much is dependent on if and when (public schools) return, what would they do?”

The suspension of public high school teams is expected after the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation announced its 60,000 members will show up for work 15 minutes before their scheduled start time and leave immediately after their scheduled duties are finished. The job action is the teachers' latest protest to Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act.

If public school teams are able to return midway through the winter season, Szpakowski suggested, they might still be able to qualify for Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships. Tournaments, rather than the regular Halton season and playoffs, could determine the top public teams that would challenge Catholic schools for OFSAA berths.

“I don’t know the exact logistics of that, but that may be in the constitution on (the HSSAA) website,” Szpakowski said.

The link to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference constitution that appears on the HSSAA website did not work Wednesday afternoon. HSSAA convener Darrin Curtis, reportedly in meetings all day and no doubt receiving a barrage of phone calls, could not be reached Wednesday for clarification.

If an all-Catholic schedule replaces the original HSSAA schedule in all the winter sports seasons, it would accommodate Aquinas, Holy Trinity, Loyola and five other Catholic schools in the region. But Szpakowski quickly agrees it isn’t the ideal situation for Catholic schools, either.

“We want the (full) league to run and for everyone to get the chance to play and compete with the best,” he said. “There are teams you have developed friendly rivalries with. Us, we’re not close to the former E.C. Drury (now Craig Kielburger in Milton), but we have a great rivalry with them, and Lester B. Pearson. Kids look forward to those games, you look forward to coaching in those games, and now you won’t see those people.”

Szpakowski said Catholic teachers won’t withdraw from high school sports in support of their peers in the public system.

“When we were out years ago (when labour issues forced Catholic schools to withdraw from HSSAA sports in 1995) the public went ahead with their league,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair to expect us to shut down when they didn’t shut down for us.”

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