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FORT NELSON, B.C. – A parent of a student at Fort Nelson Secondary is disappointed that his son was excluded from the year-end school volleyball tournament because he is unvaccinated, while adults were able to compete if they were vaccinated.

Kim Diamond-C says his son participated in a recreational volleyball program at the school, practising twice a week and competing against students in other grades for three months.

Because this was an in-school program that would not be travelling to compete against other schools, Diamond-C says vaccination was not mandatory for participation.

“For any after-school sport, as long as it was just students, they were not required to be vaccinated,” said Diamond-C. “My son said that two days before the tournament, he got told that he can’t play because he’s not vaccinated, which is hugely disappointing.”

The reason for the change of rules is that adults were allowed to compete in the event, which requires different health guidelines than a students-only competition.

What’s frustrating for Diamond-C is that his son put months of effort into the season, as did his teammates.

It was time with his friends, valuable physical activity and genuine enjoyment of sports. But because adult teams were included, that meant as much as 25 per cent of the students were unable to compete in the final school tournament of the year.

“This is a school sport, let the kids play. Why kick them out so that you could accommodate adults?”

Diamond-C says it’s not uncommon in non-COVID-19 years to have adults competing alongside students, but he says it never came at the expense of the students.

“We’ve had it where, in non-COVID years, adults have played in the year-end tournaments, but not at the expense of kicking out 25 per cent of the students to accommodate the adults. That just defeats the purpose. The kids put hard work into this.”

School District 81 Superintendent, Diana Samchuk, says it was an unfortunate series of events that led to the confusion.

“The school’s initial understanding was that this is a school-related program, so any adults or spectators would need to be fully vaccinated, but our students wouldn’t,” said Samchuk.

“And then, when making sure all the boxes were ticked, a call was made to the Environmental Health Officer online. They said no, as the community teams were coming from the fire hall and the rec centre, then no, everybody including students would need to be vaccinated.”

Samchuk says the four school teams had played against each other all season, and the addition of outside teams would add another level of competition.

“I understand some students were very disappointed, and we feel terrible about that. Unfortunately, during these COVID-19 times, there’s been a lot of disappointment. I am really glad that the kids did have an opportunity to play volleyball all season, and I wish that we had other choices for the tournament.”

According to the superintendent, School District 81 has decided against a mandatory vaccination policy for school staff.

“Our board put out something locally a couple of weeks ago. They encourage vaccinations, but they’re not going forward with an employee vaccination policy.”

Samchuk says the district will take this mishap into consideration in the future, but hopefully, things are back to normal soon.

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