After hearing from students, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board is moving ahead with plans to provide free tampons and pads to students.
With the B.C. Ministry of Education issuing an order to provide students with access to free menstrual products by the end of December, Nanaimo school district trustees decided in early October to consult with students before proceeding. More than 500 students have been surveyed and at the district Oct. 23 board meeting, trustees adopted a policy on provision of menstrual products and directed staff to develop related administrative procedures.
Dispensers are expected to be installed in female, accessible and gender-neutral washrooms in both elementary and secondary schools.
While costs were initially estimated at $75,000 for 140 dispensers, with $128,000 for labour, and $83,000 for the products, Carrie McVeigh, school district secretary-treasurer, told the board, at the meeting, they would be less.
“On a positive note, we’ve got some more solid costing in relation to usage for product as a result of the survey,” McVeigh said. “So the cost will go down significantly there, based on just this initial student survey … I think initially we were quoting you somewhere in the neighbourhood of $150,000, that’s down to about $100,000 in year 1 and then subsequent years around $60,000.”
Pricing has decreased, but trustee Stephanie Higginson said the district should still be mindful of costs.
“A lot of schools that I’ve been in, that are elementary, have a primary wing,” said Higginson. “I’m just wondering about the need to put these in primary wings, and I might be sounding nitpicky about this, but having taught in schools that had the dispensers, that had ongoing issues with the maintenance of the dispensers, I’m just trying to be cautious of our cost outlay … I question whether they need to be in every bathroom in the elementary schools.”
According to a staff report, about 88 per cent of students surveyed were in high school. The highest percentage of students indicated they used both pads and tampons, followed by pads only, then tampons only. Close to 35 per cent said they would only use menstrual products provided at school only in emergency situations.