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Private school students, public school jocks?

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I found some pretty interesting stuff on the MHSAA website, especially a bid by some unnamed faith-based private schools to get their kids places on nearby public high school football, hockey and rugby teams.

The bid was defeated by the MHSAA directors.

"The concern was displacement," said Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association executive director Morris Glimcher.

Glimcher said that the proposal involved some of the small-to-mid-sized faith-based private schools. Some of the larger private schools have enough students to compete in volleyball or basketball, but usually there aren’t enough students to go up against 4-A schools in the largest team sports.

Glimcher said that the proposal that MHSAA directors voted upon included provisions that no public school student could be cut from his or her school’s team to accommodate a private school student, nor could he or she be ‘displaced’ by a private school student.

Displacement is an interesting issue — had this gone through, you have to wonder how it would have been defined.

If a private school has a kid highly-skilled in a sport that his or her school does not offer, should that student be able to take the playing time of a public high school student at that kid’s public high school? And if a private school kid wasn’t allowed to get on the field or ice because he or she would be displacing a student attending that school, what would be the point of just practicing all year but never playing?

It raises all kinds of issues about how far the public school system should or could go to accommodate kids whose parents choose to put them in a private school.

There are already financial agreements for shared use of facilities. Private school kids can use shops and labs at some nearby public schools through annual agreements, and public school divisions sometimes contract out some of their resource and clinical specialists to private schools. Public school officials assure me that private school kids only get access if there’s room in the timetable and if public school kids don’t lose any access to facilities in their own buildings.

I’ve known public school teachers who put their own kids in faith-based schools, and I’ve known teachers at faith-based schools who put their kids in public schools.

Very few private schools — sorry, technically they’re independent funded schools — can offer the high-calibre athletic programs at the 4-A level which large public high schools offer. There just aren’t enough kids. St. Paul’s, St. Mary’s Academy, Balmoral Hall and Mennonite Brethren obviously compete at the highest levels. But by and large, private schools don’t have enough kids in each grade to compete in more than 3-A or 2-A sports, or don’t have enough students to enter the biggest team sports.

Should private school students have access to those sports in the public system, and if so, under what conditions? There’s already enough conflict and intrigue involved in kids attending a public high school in their neighbourhood, then the next year switching under schools-of-choice to a public high school in another neighbourhood or another school division, whose team is a powerhouse in that student’s best sport.

Students in a public high school which does not have football, can’t go to another public high school at 3:30 p.m. and play for its football team.

And why stop at football, rugby and hockey?

Why not all sports?

Why not other programs? If a private school does not have enough students to form a concert band, or to mount a major theatrical production, should the private school musicians and performing artists be able to go over to the nearby public high school and play in the band or take a part in the annual musical?

For all I know, someone with a kid in the private schools may already have asked that same question.

So far, it looks as though this time around, MHSAA’s having said no has not prompted any type of judicial challenge.

Look, I’m not advocating opening public school doors to private school students for extracurriculars. But here’s a case of someone’s having knocked on the door, and having been turned away. It may not be the last we hear of this.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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