By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Louis-Riel Rebelles
With its popular 15-year-old Sports-Study program, Louis-Riel high school has long been a leader in combining physical activity into the school setting, so when COVID-19 struck, it was time to innovate once again.
“We’ve been using all the tools around us to make sure that everyone is safe and everyone is active,” highlights Louis-Riel Sports-Study program coordinator Ken Levesque, noting the school’s Grade 7-8 students continue to have daily phys ed classes.
Health experts have emphasized the importance of youngsters staying active during difficult times, in order to maintain optimal physical and – more importantly – mental health.
“The students do have to spend a lot of their day in the same classroom, so going to the Dome or the gym to expend an hour of energy is very important to us,” he adds, underlining the link between a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Of course, gym class doesn’t quite look the same during COVID times. There are no contact sports, activities are modified to maintain physical distancing, and there is a greater emphasis on conditioning, with agility and quickness circuits.
“We’re trying to make it as fun as we can with all the restrictions,” Levesque notes. “They’re still moving around and exercising – that’s what counts.”
The school follows all guidelines set by public health agencies, and goes farther in many cases. Students must keep their distance and wear a mask at all times during indoor exercise, while staff wear visors and clean equipment after use.
With a full-size soccer field, volleyball/basketball courts, a weightroom and 400-metre track, the giant Dome LR has proven especially valuable to maintain phys ed programming.
The Dome is currently only open for the school’s use, which substantially minimizes risk, as only students use it under the watch of teachers employing strict protocols.
“The number one thing for us right now is to keep our students and our staff members healthy,” Levesque indicates. “It’s hard for the community clubs and everyone that would normally use the facility, but our student body is our priority.”
Louis-Riel continues to deploy its in-house bus fleet to bring Sports-Study program participants to off-site venues (such as arenas, dance studios or gymnastics centres), with seats cleaned after every trip, and students sitting in the same seat every time, distanced and masked.
Accustomed to supporting athletes when they’re away at competitions or training camps during normal times, Louis-Riel found itself well-positioned to help students learn at home (Grade 9-12 students attend school in-person every second day).
The end result is that Louis-Riel student-athletes haven’t been hit quite as hard as elsewhere when it comes to staying in shape and succeeding in their studies.
“We try to make it as normal as possible. There are restrictions of course, but we’re really working as hard as we can to offer our students those great opportunities,” Levesque says. “Our staff have been putting in extra time to get organized, to do cleaning, and to change their way of teaching, to make sure our activities are safe.
“It’s been amazing to see everyone pull together, and be creative, and adapt. I’ll say it again, our staff is definitely one of the best out there – #1, I’d say.”
Learn more about the Louis-Riel Sports-Study Program and available streams at: https://sportsottawa.com/2020/02/20/louis-riel-sports/