British Columbia’s longest running high school basketball tournament will not be held as planned this month in Port Alberni – but organizers haven’t ruled out the possibility that TOTEM could be rescheduled to a later date.
The announcement came on Dec. 30 from the TOTEM Committee that the event will not be held on Jan. 7 and 8, after new measures were announced from the provincial health officer and B.C. Ministry of Education the previous day. Amid a surge of COVID-19 infections that have been as high as 4,000 a day since late December, the resumption of classes after the Christmas break in elementary and secondary schools was delayed by a week until Monday, Jan. 10.
This would have been the first time the basketball tournament was held in two years, after TOTEM’s cancellation in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowds of up to 500 were expected at the Alberni District Secondary School and the Alberni Athletic Hall, where eight girls and eight boys teams were to compete. The local high school had male and female squads ready for the event, including several Nuu-chah-nulth athletes.
“We continue to feel it is important to provide the TOTEM experience for our students and community at large, but must be able to do so in a safe, and responsible manner, while following all public health orders,” reads a statement from the tournament’s organizing committee. “The TOTEM Committee will meet again to discuss any options they may have.”
The province’s announcement came after a push from the BC Teachers Federation for a delay in the restart of schools. School staff were directed to return on Jan. 3 and 4 without students, giving them time to implement safety measures in preparation for more exposure to the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19. The new implementations include maximizing available space within schools to allow more distance between people and removing gatherings from school plans when possible. Assemblies are to be replaced with virtual events or gatherings within schools are to be held at half capacity.