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Some trips still allowed, clarifies Comox Valley School District

Although School District 71 announced the cancellation of all overnight extracurricular camping trips, curricular trips are allowed.
According to assistant superintendent Sheila Shanahan, elementary schools generally go on extracurricular overnight trips, while overnight trips at the secondary level are generally deemed curricular, citing G.P. Vanier Secondary's Explore program and band trips as examples.
"Some of the band trips, for example, band is already often offered outside of the timetable," said Shanahan, adding "teachers actually have some time set aside after hours anyway that's already curricular."
However, she said many Grade 6 and 7 students that normally go on overnight camping trips to places like Camp Homewood, Strathcona Provincial Park, and Hornby Island will not be able to do so this year.
She added the decision was made in an effort to support school administration, noting some schools have only one principal, and some administrative staff were feeling torn between staying in schools to do their jobs or trying to supervise trips.
"We wanted to put in a level of support for them to say, 'No, we don't expect you to try to fill the void,'" said Shanahan.
Comox Valley District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) chair Tonia Frawley said some Comox Valley parents are feeling frustration at the situation.
"It's frustrating for parents, and it must be frustrating for teachers as well, that outside of their teaching hours they can't simply be a volunteer," said Frawley, adding some parents are confused by teachers' withdrawal from extracurricular activities as a way to protest Bill 22. "This is volunteering and so it would be like someone saying to us 'you can't volunteer after your hours of work' and so I think there's a lot of parents who are confused because they don't understand why."
Comox District Teachers' Association president Steve Stanley said the decision was not taken lightly by teachers and they know the action is disappointing to students and parents.
But "the government's passing of Bill 22 made other forms of action illegal and subject to fines so this has left us with no other recourse," said Stanley. "In the midst of this action, people seem to be forgetting that the government precipitated the loss of extracurricular activities through their actions with Bill 22, (not to mention Bill 27, 28, 33 and so on for the last 10 years)."
Tribune Bay Outdoor Recreation Centre manager Gord Campbell said he supports the teachers' decision, but the Hornby Island camping trip cancellations are hurting the recreation centre greatly.
About 3,000 youth normally come through the centre — about 1,000 from SD71, about 1,000 from SD69 (Qualicum), and another 1,000 from summer programs and other districts. He's working with schools to see if students can come for day trips.
He's also the administrator for the Vancouver Island Mountain Centre at Mount Washington, and while he acknowledged the facility is new, no public schools have stayed overnight since it opened in December.
Frawley noted some schools are losing the deposits put down on these trips.
"What we are wondering now is who is on the hook for the lost deposits," said Frawley. "Are the schools out of pocket, are the PACs out of pocket, and we're looking at our options."
However, Frawley said many parents have stepped up to help with events such as graduation ceremonies to ensure they go ahead as normal.
She noted Highland Secondary School considered holding its graduation events at the school rather than the Filberg Lodge — where it normally does weather permitting — because teachers are a big part of the ceremony organization.
"But (parents) said, 'You know what, no, we're OK, we'll roll up our sleeves and you tell us what to do and we will absolutely get it set up at the Filberg,'" said Frawley. "Parents are absolutely jumping in and picking up the slack wherever they can, and offering suggestions, and we're all staying as positive and proactive as we can."
Shanahan said individual schools will contact parents with any changes to events.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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