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Curling considered ‘high-risk’ activity by school division

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A metro school division has classified curling as a “high risk” activity — a description that is at-odds with the stance taken by the provincial association dedicated to promoting the wintry sport beloved in rinks across Manitoba.

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A metro school division has classified curling as a “high risk” activity — a description that is at-odds with the stance taken by the provincial association dedicated to promoting the wintry sport beloved in rinks across Manitoba.

“How did we get to this point where, in a sense, we’re telling parents that letting your kid on the ice is a high-risk activity? This is Canada,” said Thomas Rempel-Ong, a parent in the Pembina Trails School Division.

École Tuxedo Park students were invited to participate in three learn-to-curl sessions facilitated by CurlManitoba, also known as the Manitoba Curling Association, at the Charleswood Curling Club this month.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

École Marie-Anne-Gaboury in the Louis Riel School Division is among the schools that have created curling rinks on their properties this winter.

Parents were asked to sign and submit permission slips, per standard field trip protocols.

And in doing so, they were expected to acknowledge that accidents can happen and the school division provides no insurance coverage for ambulance costs or other incidental medical expenses.

“I understand that curling is considered a high-risk activity by Pembina Trails School Division,” states an excerpt from the document, which encourages participants to wear CSA-approved helmets.

Rempel-Ong said he could not help but laugh when he read the division’s classification of the non-contact sport. “Have we lost all sense of perspective that we’re going to say pushing a rock is ‘high-risk’?” the elementary school father said.

Tuxedo Park families have received notices deeming separate curling and tobogganing events as “high risk” in recent weeks.

While noting there are far more pressing issues than permission-slip semantics, Rempel-Ong said overstating safety concerns flies in the face of teaching children how-to be critical thinkers who evaluate their surroundings to gauge risk levels.

If the division truly thinks something is risky, a warning should be accompanied by a detailed explanation to back it up, he added.

CurlManitoba’s website — under a section about getting started with the winter activity — touts curling as an official Olympic sport that is affordable and can be played regardless of a participant’s age, gender or physical condition. There is a “low risk of injury,” it notes.

“It’s a safe activity and an activity for life. We encourage people to bring it into schools because it can be done forever and rather safely,” said Craig Baker, executive director of CurlManitoba.

Baker said learn-to-curl sessions focus on balance and other foundational skills.

Grippers, special soles worn on top of a player’s slider foot are used to ensure participant safety, he said, adding this equipment can be worn on both feet to increase overall stability.

Wayoata School in the River East Transcona School Division and the Louis Riel School Division’s École Marie-Anne-Gaboury, which Baker’s son attends, are among the elementary buildings that have created curling rinks on their properties to teach phys-ed outdoors this year.

Neither superintendent Lisa Boles nor Pembina Trails’ physical education and health consultant were available for comment Friday.

As far as Rempel-Ong is concerned, the division’s risk communication — which he said makes Pembina Trails look like “a helicopter school division” — is causing parents to tune-out of all warnings.

“If we’ve all been conditioned to ignore what they say or overreact, the division won’t get buy-in,” he said, adding no teacher or principal at his daughter’s school would support any activity that actually puts children in danger.

A list of activities deemed high risk by school leaders was not provided upon request.

Division policies state high-risk activities require at least one adult supervisor to have both first aid and CPR training.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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