Teachers’ action dampens year-end camping trip

NANAIMO – Teachers' extra-curricular action cancels overnight portion of students' camping trip.

Teachers’ withdrawal from extra-curricular activities in protest of Bill 22 is threatening to pull up stakes on an overnight camping trip for Grade 7 students at Frank J. Ney Elementary School.

The annual trip, scheduled for June 21-22 at Camp Capenwray on Thetis Island, requires a school district employee to attend for insurance and liability purposes.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s ban on extra-curriculars has the overnight portion of the trip in jeopardy, allowing only two day trips to the camp.

Karen Hoy, vice-president of the Nanaimo and District Parents Advisory Council and mother of a Grade 7 student at Frank Ney, said the teachers’ action is denying the children a rite of passage.

“Staying overnight is a huge deal for them,” she said. “They’ve watched years of kids go before them and finally when it’s their turn, it’s taken away from them.”

Fundraising for the trip began last summer with last year’s Grade 7 class fundraising for the camp deposit for this year’s group.

Hoy said this year’s class earned the right to go.

“They’ve done bottle drives and movie nights, raffles, hotdog sales, car washes and garage sales. Every child has put in so many hours of their own time,” she said. “This is their trip and all the adults around them who are supposed to be helping them in their lives, helping them achieve their goals, are not allowing them to go on the one thing they’ve really earned.”

The class teacher will be with the students at the camp – 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the first day and 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the next day – but the group must be back in Nanaimo by 2:45 p.m. before the teacher is off shift.

Some parents want to sign waivers for their children to stay overnight at the camp with a suitable guardian, transferring liability from the district to individual families, but Christine Southwick, assistant superintendent, says the responsibility falls on the district.

“It was originally booked as a whole class event. Even though you have waivers from some parents, it’s seen as a school event,” she said. “It’s the liability and the implied liability.”

Hoy said she will continue fighting for the students right up to the day of the trip.

“My problem right now is parents have no choice in any of this,” she said. “We didn’t ask the BCTF to stand up and do what they’re doing, we didn’t ask the district to clamp down on alternatives.”

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said calls from upset parents and teachers regarding extra-curricular activities are some of the toughest conversations he’s had on the job, but teachers are fighting for the basics – the conditions in the classroom during the school day.

“I think it’s unfortunate they’re not going to have their overnight camp trip,” he said. “At the same time, I didn’t get into this job to fight for guaranteed camp trips or guaranteed soccer tournaments.

“If those students whose camp trip was impacted can have decent class sizes and supports to succeed in their high school years, then I think it was a worthwhile price to be paid.”

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