The Qualicum School District has rejected a controversial motion to stop supporting out-of-province field trips because of their environmental impact.
Instead of the motion, which was voted down 3-2, the board will form a climate action committee to give recommendations in February 2020 on how the school district can reduce its ecological footprint. Although it’s unclear exactly what that will look like, trustee Barry Kurland said he hopes it includes working with the local Indigenous community and getting their input.
The proposed motion was initially brought forward by Kurland in September. It reads, “that the school board of SD69 (Qualicum), will not condone or sanction long distance, category 4 and 5 (from the SD69 policy 5020) field trips.” Such field trips are ones requiring off-continent or out-of-province travel.
Since, there has been discussion from students, teachers and the board about how significant the environmental impact of these trips really is, and if it makes the experience worth missing out on.
Questions have been raised about other areas where the school district could lessen their environment impact. In addition, students expressed at a recent education committee of the whole meeting they felt it was unfair for them to take on the onus of the district’s climate change contribution.
Three field trips were discussed independent of the motion: a Kwalikum Secondary School band trip to Calgary in May 2020; a KSS trip to Belize during spring break 2020 and a KSS trip to Japan during spring break 2020.
The trips to Japan and Calgary were approved, but the Belize trip was unanimously turned down. The Japan trip had already been given primary approval, but the Belize trip was in its first stage with the board.
Kurland said that was a main reason for the Belize trip being the only one rejected at the meeting.
“This is for preliminary approval, it’s not like we’ve given it preliminary and now there’s final approval,” he said. “This is what our process is.”
Trips were already individually looked at by the school board, so it’s now possible they could still be denied based on their environmental impact, but there is no longer a motion on the table which would blanket reject all out of province trips.
Kurland brought up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to emphasize why he still believes in his motion. The IPCC reported in 2018 that we have 12 years to make urgent changes to avoid a climate change disaster.
“That’s one little kid’s cycle in this system, is 12 years,” he said.
Eve Flynn, trustee and chair of the school board, said she voted against the motion because she felt like it wasn’t grasping the bigger picture of climate change.
“I think definitely the carbon output from plane travel is a piece of a very, very large pie,” she said.
Even though she voted against the motion, she’s glad it’s been the catalyst for the climate action committee, which she thinks will bring some vital change to the district.
“I think it’s discussion that is needing to, definitely needing to, be had, but on a broader base,” she said. “I think we can be more comprehensive and thoughtful.”