Saturday, 16 June 2012

Thinking Outside The Box Moves A Meet Inside

Last week our district held its elementary track and field championships. With well over 400 student participants, dozens of officials and hundreds of events, heats and events, staging this annual event is a major undertaking. Throw in the challenges of an uncertain labor climate and people start to think the challenge may be too much. Add inclement weather that turns the outdoor facility into a bog and cancellation becomes a near certainty.  Not for this school district.  Thinking outside the box, a small group of individuals rallied to pull off this year's meet in a unique fashion.

Discussion about whether or not to cancel this year's meet began back in February. With job action dragging on, it was unclear whether the staffs of the two hosting schools would be willing or able to participate. Veteran administrators who had staged the event before expressed concerns but the young administrators responsible for this year's event remained confident. A month prior to the meet principals were surveyed to gauge school's interest and willingness to contribute time to help officiate the event. A decision was made to go forward, recruiting a retired teacher with a long history of expertise in track and field to serve as meet coordinator.

As the meet approached some of our veteran staff came forward to take on roles they had held at past meets. Everything looked promising. Then the rains came. Four days of torrential downpours turned the venue to a muddy lake. The event looked literally dead in the water. The initial date was washed out and there was no hope the track would recover in time for the back up date four days later.

That's where this story takes a twist. While returning timing equipment to the Pomeroy Sports Centre (PSC),  our winter sports complex, our meet coordinator explained our problem to the facility manager. She then suggested the meet move indoors and utilize the speed skating oval, free of ice for the summer as our track. Long distance events could be held on the walking track on the third floor and the field events on the dry floor space where the hockey arenas sit. The idea was not without challenges but with the cooperation of the city, the support of district staff and maintenance, and hours of tireless innovation from our meet coordinator and his core group of volunteers the winter facility was turned into an indoor track and field facility in only 72 hours.

As luck would have it the weather was fair the day of the meet but no one really minded. The meet came off on time and with only a few minor tweaks - not unlike what would have happened outside anyways. The staffs at the two hosting schools pitched in with enthusiasm, a free canteen was provided for all participants and the event finished on time to many positive reviews. Administrators from all across the district donated their day and officiated the event. With the event happening inside the instructional day teacher coaches were able to participate with their students. The event became a success for everyone. There's even a suggestion that the meet should now be held at the PSC every year.  

One end of the PSC houses our SD 60 Energetic Learning Campus. Staff and students wear tee shirts that read "you know you're Canadian when your school is in a hockey arena" It must make us even more Canadian when our track meet is held there too! The whole event demonstrated the power of collaboration, cooperation and creative thinking as many diverse groups pulled together to benefit students. Following tradition would have left the meet 'dead in the water". Some creative "outside the box" thinking brought the meet indoors and provided everyone with a great day.

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