There will be sports in school this year, but there will be fewer people watching them, according to new rules released on Tuesday by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
In fact, for indoors sports, no one will be allowed to watch, explained George Daley, the deputy minister of the anglophone education system, during a live-stream briefing about the province's return-to-school plan.
He said "virtual viewing options are encouraged, if possible."
Outdoor sports will be limited to 50 spectators, and physical distancing of two metres will apply, he said.
Sports with a governing provincial body, like Hockey New Brunswick or Soccer New Brunswick, will be governed by those bodies, said Daley. But no matter what those organizations say about spectators, there will be no spectators in school gymnasiums.
In high school, inter-school sports will resume, although with "enhanced protocols," said Daley. That could include fewer players on the roster in order to comply with Public Health guidelines.
Lists of all participants, including coaches, players and volunteers will be maintained for all events.
Daley said participants aren't allowed to engage in any unnecessary physical contact, such as high-fives or handshakes.
Sports for K-8 students will be limited to local geographic areas to limit contact to a smaller area, he said.
If teachers or coaches are not part of the bubble group, they have to stay two metres away from all students.
Intramural sports will be allowed from K-8 within classroom bubbles, and in high school, only when physical distancing is possible, said Daley.
In the event that the province moves from its current Yellow phase back to Orange or Red, all intramural sports will be suspended.
Daley said most extracurricular school activities will go ahead but those that can be done virtually, like school governance meetings, will be encouraged to do so.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said it's important for students to get back to the stages, courts and playing fields that schools provide and take advantage of the "opportunities for social growth."
"There will be risks, but we'll try to reduce them," she said.
Physical education classes will resume for all grade levels, although teachers will be encouraged to use outdoor spaces when possible, said Daley.
Students in K-8 will stay within their class grouping, or bubble, and not have to physically distance — which is the same rule that applies in classrooms.
Class groupings, however, will have to stay two metres away from other groups, and if two groups are using the gym at the same time, a divider or curtain may be used to keep them separated, Daley said.
High school students, however, will have to keep one metre away from everyone else — just as they will have to inside the classroom.
Equipment will be disinfected after each use, said Daley, and if that's not possible, the equipment will not be used.
The next public briefing on the province's back-to-school plan will be held on Thursday.
Schools will open on Sept. 8 on a staggered-start basis for students, and most high school students will spend alternating days at home and at school.