School district considers reopening Ma Murray gym to public

School trustees will consider a motion Monday to reopen the Ma Murray school gym to community clubs on a trial basis during the ongoing pandemic.

Community groups haven't been able to use school facilities since the spring, when the pandemic was declared. Superintendent Stephen Petrucci says the school district intended to revisit the decision in the new school year, and a motion and report will go before the Nov. 16 board of education meeting.

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"Staff will recommend that we maintain a ban on third party use, except for a pilot for the Ma Murray School," Petrucci said.

The pilot would see the Ma Murray gym open to groups on weekends only. If approved, groups would have to apply to use the facility, and follow certain health and safety procedures. School staff would be on site to sanitize and supervise.

Many local sports groups have been without a place to play or hold club activities this year, although some have been able to find temporary homes. The Northern B.C. Volleyball Club asked the school district to consider reopening facilities earlier this month.

"We are definitely wanting to try something to make the space available, and Ma Murray is the right place to try it," Petrucci said.

In a report to the board, Petrucci noted the school district's partnership with the city for the community's use of the Ma Murray gym.

"The city provided significant funding to expand the gym to a secondary size, which can accommodate two community groups at a time (separated by a curtain) in the evenings and weekends," he wrote. "The city is currently allowing community use at its own facilities, with strict guidelines in place."

Other options being presented are to allow third-party use of all facilities, or to maintain the ban on use of all facilities. 

In his report, Petrucci wrote that opening up all gyms would be "extremely challenging from a staffing, logistical, and public confidence perspective," Petrucci wrote.

"We would start small and make sure we can control things, and then we would consider future use," he said, adding the shifting nature of the pandemic could affect future decisions.

Most B.C. school districts have similar bans in place on outside user groups because of the pandemic. However, the Dawson Creek school district recently made the decision to continue letting local groups use its facilities.

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca

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