Strike would shut down most varsity sports

Matt Veno
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TRURO - It didn't seem real for the Cobequid Cougars boys basketball team.
When coach Marc Roberts recently informed his players they could lose their season if 600 Chignecto-Central Regional School Board employees walk off the job Monday, his comments were met with 14 blank stares.
"They just looked at me like 'this is crazy,'" said Roberts, who is also Cobequid Educational Centre's athletic director. "I really feel for them."
School board employees are represented by CUPE Nova Scotia, which is threatening to pull school board and health-care support workers off the job Monday over contract negotiations with the province.
After several failed talks, school board employees are set to go back to the bargaining table with the province Sunday. If nothing is settled, schools will only be open 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after regular school hours, meaning varsity sports that use in-house facilities will be left in limbo.
"It was a little shocking," said basketball team member Brandon MacKay. "We weren't really expecting it. We thought they would have had it resolved and smoothed over."
A strike would mean no practice or games for the basketball, badminton, rugby, track and field and table tennis teams. The hockey, curling, ski and snowboard teams will still be able to continue as they use facilities outside the school.
"We're going to be greatly affected," Roberts said. "We're done. There's nothing."
Roberts said Colchester County is fortunate to have other facilities such as the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and Nova Scotia Community College gyms, places he would look at taking his hoops squad to practice.
But, he added, both of those gyms are currently busy with their own programs and the school has no budget to pay for the use of outside facilities.
"They are usually pretty good to us," Roberts said. "But we don't know if they have space to offer."
South Colchester Academy athletic director Larry MacKenzie said that isn't as realistic an option for kids at his school.
"It's hard to get everyone centrally located because we're so spread out," he said. "But then there's no other venue in the community that we could go to to practice."
If a strike is lengthy it would be difficult to make up for missed games. NSSAF rules say teams must have games played by a certain date before provincial championships. But if the strike lasts long enough, they may not get to play any.
"It would be tough," MacKay said. "But we just have to realize there's nothing we can do and we just have to focus on what we can do."
Aside from athletics, Roberts said it will be challenging for students who do not have a drive home, or who won't be able to access extra help just weeks before exams.
"They are students first," Roberts said. "They're going to be affected as athletes but more as students."

Organizations: Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Nova Scotia Community College, Central Regional School Board Cobequid Educational Centre South Colchester Academy

Geographic location: Chignecto, Colchester County

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