Parents upset about district’s hold on certain trips

A Nanaimo parent is floored the school district has grounded international field trips.

A Nanaimo parent is floored the school district has grounded international field trips.

Lori Hall’s daughter Saffron, a tour band student at Woodlands Secondary School, was supposed to go to Cuba next February.

Instead, tour band members, who started fundraising for the trip last spring, are losing the $300 deposit each student paid because the district put all out-of-province and international field trips on hold due to teacher job action, said Hall.

“They fundraised last year and all through the summer and they’re continuing,” she said. “It’s cruel in my mind that our administration is doing this. For most of these kids, this is their only opportunity to travel.”

In a note to parents, the administration’s rationale for the hold on trips is that if job action should escalate, teachers might not be able to accompany students and students could lose any money they paid.

District guidelines require international and out-of-province field trips be led by district employees and approved by administrators in all schools involved.

But Hall said for the Cuba trip, the group has insurance the covers a teacher strike and other districts she’s talked to are still approving similar trips.

Cam Pinkerton, superintendent of Port Alberni school district, confirmed his district approved the planning portion of all four international trip requests and the district will look at the issue again when it comes time to actually book the trip.

Sharon Welch, Nanaimo school board chairwoman, said trustees and administrators are concerned about students losing money, especially if they’ve worked for months to raise the large sums needed for big trips.

When asked if a parent or education assistant could accompany students in the teacher’s place, secretary-treasurer Phil Turin said he was unable to respond, as the school board and the two unions would have to be involved.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said teachers discussed different options with some parents, such as having the teacher continue to organize the trip, but if a strike occurs, having a designated parent to take over as Plan B.

Parents have to be OK with the possibility that their child might participate in a non-school sanctioned trip, he said.

“I had some disappointed parent phone calls and some disappointed teacher phone calls,” said DeGear. “Within the job action, I thought the planning could occur. We’ve been telling teachers to go ahead.”

Parent Katie Weber, who has a daughter in Wellington Secondary School’s jazz academy and a son in the tour band at Woodlands, believes some Wellington parents met last week to discuss ways to have students go on trips without the teacher – jazz academy students are supposed to go to Ottawa and Idaho next spring.

“It’s a pretty serious program,” she said. “They’re very competitive nationally and they always take away lots of awards when they go to Idaho. It’s just kind of knowing what to plan for.”