The board of Bulkley Valley School District 54 voted unanimously to not endorse a planned school trip to Europe over spring break due to terrorism concerns.
Houston Secondary School students and parents can still plan the trip on their own. School District staff did not have an answer for trustees when asked if not being endorsed would increase costs. The School District would not be liable if parents bring their kids on their own.
School trips to Europe were approved the last several years.
“I have some safety concerns about students traveling internationally,” assistant superintendent Mike McDiarmid told trustees during his recommendation they not endorse the trip.
Board Chair Les Kearns is also a trustee for Houston. The board will also be discussing future school trips at its next policy committee meeting Nov. 6.
When asked at last Tuesday’s meeting if trips to the United States will be under consideration, Kearns said they will but that he considered attacks like those in Las Vegas, which killed 59, to be different than those in Western Europe, where fewer than 50 have been killed in terror attacks in 2017 according to to the Global Terrorism Database.
He described attacks like those in Vegas and other shootings in the United States as, “Americans shooting Americans.”
“That’s [sending students to the United States] probably one of the things we’re going to talk about when we take this to our policy committee, because I think there is a difference. Would you send students to Mexico? I don’t know,” said Kearns.
“But 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.”
Kearns added that while there were more terror attacks in places like the United Kingdom in the 1980s and ’90s, he believes the targeting of tourists has made modern day attacks more of a threat to visiting students.
The government of Canada (travel.gc.ca) has no travel advisories for Western Europe, but does suggest exercising a high degree of caution for the United Kingdom and France.
Normal precautions (lowest level of concern) are recommended for Germany, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and the Czech Republic.
Spring Break: one or two weeks?
The draft school calendar for the next several years includes a one-week spring break.
Parents, staff and students got a couple years of two-week breaks recently, and some are clamouring to keep the extra long break. Trustees and staff are still taking in suggestions from the public.
New Bulkley Valley Teachers Union president Catherine Quanstrom was at the meeting and voiced her opinion on behalf of teachers during open comment period at the end. She said past consultation has seen, “overwhelming support for a two-week spring break.”
Quanstrom also told trustees there is little peer reviewed research to show any harmful effect on vulnerable children, suggesting all kids could use the extra long break.