Nanaimo school district is ready to end a two-year ban on field trips off the continent.
Nanaimo district staff and the education committee are recommending the school board lift a moratorium on travel outside North America in August 2018, with revised procedures and guidelines.
The ban on international travel happened after a terrorist attack in Nice, France, in July 2014.
More than 100 students, staff and chaperones were on an international education field trip led by a commercial operator, when a man drove a truck into a crowd during Bastille Day celebrations, killing more than 80 people. Many members of the group had been at ‘ground zero’ and although no one had any significant injuries, or died, many of them witnessed the carnage and the after effects of the attack, according to staff report
The district cut the trip short and brought all the participants home.
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“We have learned a lot and we have taken a lot of steps since that time,” said Tim Davie, superintendent designate, at an education meeting Wednesday, poining out that there’s been continued consultation and dialogue after the event, discussions with other school districts and the schools protection program.
The district has also made revisions to field trip procedures.
The superintendent, CEO or designate, for example, has the final say on approving out-of-province and international travel and parents and organizers also have to be informed up front that trips can be cancelled by the school district if there are factors that affect participants’ safety or well-being.
“Our superintendent ultimately has the responsibility for safety of all employees and students and ensuring that safety, so what we want is … to make sure that the school district, if we are approving and we are sanctioning field trips, that we are able to say at any point, including during the trip if things aren’t deemed safe, that the school district has the jurisdiction to make that call,” said Davie.
The district didn’t have a direct involvement in the trip to Nice, which was promoted and arranged by an outside tour company, according to Davie, who said there were questions about whether it was a school district trip or an independent trip parents had sent their children on and who ultimately had jurisdiction over the decision to bring the employees and students back. Ensuring the safety of 103 people connected to different schools, and making sure needs were met during the Nice attack was a “monumental task.”
Also changed is that the school district will look to work with one principal who’s getting information and is up to speed on what’s going on.
Trustee Noah Routley said at the education meeting that he would have liked to have done something like this years ago when the incident happened.
“Of course I am going to say hey, this is a good step in the right direction because I don’t believe that fear should predominate ever for Canadian policy or for our kids,” he said.
Trustee Bill Robinson said he supported the motion given the experience and learning that took place through the Nice event, the work staff described over the past two years, as well as the importance of connecting travel and curriculum while Steve Rae, trustee, said it was the right thing to put a moratorium in place, take a deep breath and assess the landscape. A lot was learned, he said, and he thinks the district can continue to move forward.
The school district still plans to meet with Nice trip chaperones to allow for more input into changes or revisions to procedure and will create a new online application form for international trips if the board gives final approval.
-files from Karl Yu