SD 54 to draft policy on international travel

Bulkley Valley school board to look at each trip request on a case by case basis.

The Bulkley Valley school board is taking measures to ensure students’ safety when travelling abroad. Committee members decided at last week’s policy meeting to not have a total ban on school trips outside of the country but to look at each request for a trip case by case.

“That is the struggle with this. The last thing you want is to live in fear or not do things because you are afraid,” said Superintendent Chris van der Mark. “But there is a difference in parents taking their own children and the district sanctioning a trip.”

The board has also decided to create a policy on international travel because they currently do not have one.

“It is hard decision to say no. [However] I would hate to be in the position to have to explain to a family after a tragedy has happened …. we wouldn’t think there would be one. And to be fair, that is how things have gone. After 9/11, most school districts in B.C. and Canada eliminated international travel for a time and then of course you get into the new normal and the comfort but it comes back to do people think it is safe? I’m still going to travel but not I’m going to take your child.”

Trustee Dawn Hanson also mentioned it is difficult to be flexible when traveling in a big group and change plans in the event something bad happens.

Trustees and staff struggled during the meeting to figure out where to draw the line and which countries to deem safe.

“The risk is out there but is that risk worth the supplemental education?” questioned Secretary Treasurer Dave Margerm.

Margerm was tasked with putting together a draft international travel policy and bring it back to the board in the new year for review.

“It isn’t about denying or approving,” added van der Mark. “It is about not assuming liability. It is inaccurate to say we are forbidding or banning. That is inaccurate. We are not assuming the responsibility associated with that activity. That is a different message.”

After choosing not to endorse a trip by Houston Secondary to Europe at the board’s Oct. 24 meeting, board Chair Les Kearns stressed the main reason for the decision was safety.

“I know right now I feel that it is the responsibility to keep our students as safe as possible, and that I don’t think that the board wants to take the responsibility of sending kids to an area where tourists are targeted by crazy people,” said Kearns immediately after the meeting last month.

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