Mutchmor rink merely kicked down the road– let’s hope
By Richard Webb
As some may recall, I made the return of the hockey rink to Mutchmor my mission in life over the past few years. During that time, the school and the school board had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point where they reluctantly agreed to its return last year.
However, there were indications they considered the return to be conditional, with a final decision on the rink’s future to be made in the spring, based on a review of community usage, injury experience, interference with school operations and drainage problems. Given the demonstrated opposition of the school and the board and the paranoia born of dealing with officialdom, the thought occurred that the school and the board would find any reason to torpedo the rink. Accordingly, I requested confirmation that the rink would be continued, but I received neither a reply nor any information on the results of the review which was to be held last spring.
Then, in a letter to the Glebe Report last month, Mutchmor principal Sandra Walker revealed there would be no rink this year because of COVID-19. She said more space was needed in the yard to allow safe social distancing for students and staff. The rink, she added, would be no use to the school because it would be unsafe to use the changing hut or have volunteers help kids with their skates. But she did promise that if COVID-19 is under control by next winter, “we will be able to have the rink installed as it was last year.”
It is with some reasonable degree of suspicion that I view the school’s decision not to reopen the rink this year. But I must confess, I am of two minds.
On the one hand, my concerns remain. Despite the claim that this decision was made after consultation “with many stakeholders,” neither I nor others whom one would expect to be consulted were included. The first I heard about the decision was from one such individual who herself had just been presented with it as a fait accompli. One supposes that the “many stakeholders” consulted were only at the internal, technocratic levels. The lack of inclusive and meaningful community consultation is troubling.
I also fail to see the logic that the school has offered to support its decision. I am advised that class sizes are smaller this year as a result of distance learning and personal distancing requirements. This smaller group is now divided into six groups for recesses instead of two groups as before (and if, as I am also advised, Corpus Christi no longer shares the yard), so there are significantly fewer children in the yard at any one time. Since the school managed to accommodate the larger groups last year, it is difficult to see why it cannot accommodate the smaller groups this year, even with increased distancing requirements.
I also believe the type of outdoor physical activity provided by the rink is precisely what our children need during these difficult and restricted times.
On the other hand, we must all be sensitive to the safety of our children. If the school or the board can offer convincing evidence from health authorities that the rink would create unacceptable risks, then of course we must defer to such considerations. In this respect, however, it’s difficult to rationalize closure of the Mutchmor rink if other outdoor rinks are opening.
I have re-contacted community residents who supported my previous efforts. A significant majority indicated they share my suspicions about the school’s motives and rationale, and they support the return of the rink this year. I leave it to the community to judge the degree of risk involved, the validity of the rationale advanced and the sufficiency of the evidence provided. At the very least, I believe the community should demand that the school and the board officially confirm that the rink will be continued during normal times.
Richard Webb is a former Mutchmor School parent who has spearheaded the Glebe community’s efforts to have the Mutchmor rink returned to the community.
Skating soon at Glebe Memorial!
Despite the loss of the Mutchmor rink, there will still be outdoor skating in the neighbourhood this winter, on the Glebe Memorial rink in the park at the west end of Glendale.
The rink has been a favourite spot for shinny and skating for more than 60 years, but this season will be different because of restrictions at all the city’s outdoor rinks.
“It’ll be a COVID year,” says Dudleigh Coyle, the chief rink rat and so-called “adult in charge” since 1988. “We’ll be respecting whatever the city tells us.”
The rules are still a work in progress but as it stands now, only four people or five if from the same family will be allowed inside the change shack at once. Everyone must sign a list for contact tracing. Masks are required inside the shack but not while skating. Benches will be set up outside for putting on skates, and shelves with cubby holes have been built for storing boots. Another change – the annual party at the rink in February will likely be cancelled.
In the lingo of city bureaucrats, rinks without boards like Glebe Memorial are called “puddles.” The snowbanks around the rink are safer to crash into, says Coyle, and they reveal a trove of up to 80 lost pucks every spring. For the past few seasons, there have actually been two “puddles” with an ice link between them; during busy times, hockey players use one and skaters use the other.
Once again, GNAG is planning to run skating and hockey programs at the rink every weekday after school, Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.
Paid student supervisors are on hand from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and volunteer parents take over during the evening. Anyone who would like to help should contact email@example.com.
Weather willing, head ice-maker Randy Freda should have the rink ready to go shortly after Christmas.