Independent school athletes will be noticeably absent from this Friday’s annual School District 27 Cross Country Run.
That’s after Sacred Heart Catholic School, Maranatha Christian School and Cariboo Adventist Academy were told by the School District 27 Elementary School Sports Committee in September they would no longer be able to participate in any school sport organized by SD27.
Rick Miller, principal at Mountview elementary and director on the ESSC, said while there may be some disappointment from the independent schools, SD27 needs to focus its efforts on their own student athletes.
“They recognize there’s a lot of kids and not a lot of us, and we need to make sure our resources go to our kids,” Miller told the Tribune Monday. “Is there disappointment? Of course.”
He said in the past SD27 has done all the organization of athletic events for students from both independent and public schools.
“We expected parents would think we’re excluding them,” he said. “We’re not. We’re focusing our energy on SD27 kids.”
CAA vice-principal Lisa Brucks, however, said her school’s athletes were actively involved in after-school extracurricular activities, as well as the cross country run, and added it’s an upsetting decision.
“We’re just wondering what changed?” Brucks said. “We have a lot of students who really enjoy the after-school extracurricular activities and, unfortunately, decisions like this break a number of years of positive interaction between the schools. One of the neat things about a small town is that we can do a lot of things together and sports is a good way to do that.”
Marantha principal Trevor Ragan, meanwhile, is looking to turn what could be viewed as a negative into a positive.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “It’s not a great situation but I think we’re going to make the best of it.
“They are the district and when they say they want to take care of their students they can say that. It’s not that they have been rude about it. They’re sticking to their statement.”
In response, all three independent schools have banded together to come up with a plan to host their own cross country run on Oct. 18 at the Esler Sports Complex soccer fields from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
They also plan to schedule more athletic events together in the future.
“It’s really encouraging to have the independent schools band together,” Brucks said. “We’re inviting some other [out-of-town] schools to the cross country meet, too.”
Between the three independent schools in Williams Lake, enrolment is listed at 343 students. Province-wide, one in eight students attends an independent school. In Williams Lake, that number is lower as one in 10 students use independent schools.
“We’ve had to scramble [to come up with a plan],” Ragan said. “But we have, and I want parents and staff to know it’s not who’s right or wrong, we’ve just got to provide for the kids.”
The SD27 Cross Country Run takes place Friday and starts at 11 a.m. in Boitanio Park.