Basketball players shut out of school gymnasiums

By ongoing labour dispute between teachers, government

Darrell Cole
Published on January 10, 2017

Youth basketball coaches (from left) Cayne Amos, Kraig Morris and John Bushen are disappointed their teams have been shutout of Cumberland North Academy becasue of an going labour dispute between teachers and the provincial government.

©Darrell Cole - TC Media

BROOKDALE, N.S. – Young basketball players may be casualties of an ongoing labour dispute between teachers and provincial government.

The players are finding themselves shut out of Cumberland County schools unless their teams had a community use agreement signed prior to the start of the teachers’ work-to-rule campaign in December.

Our teams are development teams and right now there is zero activity because we can’t get into the schools. The kids are in danger of losing the whole year. My biggest fear is the kids could be soured toward basketball. We may lose them. Robert Devine, basketball coach at Cumberland North Academy

“We were using the school and we had full access until Dec. 5, that’s when it all changed,” said Cayne Amos, who coaches a team at Cumberland North Academy. “Right now there are 60 kids at one school who are unable to play basketball, and this is just one school. I imagine it’s the same across the school board.”

When work to rule began, Amos received an email from the school saying his team could no longer operate since it is a school-based team. He was also told he could not get a permit to use the school’s gym as a community team.

Amos and other coaches aren’t interested in picking sides, they want to continue operating, if even just for practices. Unlike larger centres that have more gyms, teams in Cumberland County are being shutout because the schools have the only gyms in most communities.

“What we’re asking for is to be given access to the gym, not in two weeks time or next month, but right now,” Amos said.

There’s a gym at the Cumberland YMCA but it’s not large enough for games and would never be able to accommodate all the teams.

John Bushen coaches the Grade 4 Girls C team at Cumberland North Academy. He is using the YMCA to practice, but he’s frustrated that he can’t get access to a school that he paid higher taxes for.

Bushen has asked the Municipality of Cumberland for a grant to buy basketballs for the YMCA because he cantn’t get access to the balls at the school.

“We shouldn’t have to spend taxpayers money to get access to balls that are at the school not being used,” Bushen said. “We would rather be at the school, but we can’t get in. This is just wrong.”

Robert Devine, the Grade 5B girl’s coach at Cumberland North Academy, said he doesn’t want to get involved in the dispute or cause friction with the teachers. He just wants the children to be given a place to play basketball.

“Our teams are development teams and right now there is zero activity because we can’t get into the schools. The kids are in danger of losing the whole year,” Devine said. “My biggest fear is the kids could be soured toward basketball. We may lose them.”

When Cumberland North Academy was built more than a decade ago, residents agreed to pay a higher tax rate for several years to fund an enhanced gymnasium.

Amos said children are the ones being punished by the dispute.

“What I have is a serious problem with the fact that in our area alone we have had five new schools built over the last 25 years at the expense of citizens and taxpayers and as of right now the gymnasiums in those five schools sit empty and are not being used except by three teams at E.B. Chandler who knew how the rules of work to rule were going to affect them and they managed to get their permits in time,” Amos said.

None of the coaches were notified of how work to rule would impact community access to the gyms.

Chignecto-Central Regional School Board spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson said existing community use agreements are being honoured, but no news ones are being issued during work to rule.
“It’s unfortunate and it’s nothing we want to see,” she said. “Right now, it’s not possible based on the directions that have come from the NSTU.”

She said principals are ultimately responsible for their schools and need to complete the paperwork that’s included in a community use agreement – something they have been advised by the union not to do.

She said the board is taking a look at its school-use guidelines and the approval process, in the short term, to allow it to consider new request while work to rule continues.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell