Students and teachers in Border Land School Division will have to find a new way to see the world.
Trustees have voted to discontinue school-sanctioned international travel clubs that are commonly responsible for organizing trips, through a third-party agency, to places like Europe during Spring Break.
Craig Smiley, BLSD Chairperson, admitted this wasn't an easy decision for the Board to make and said discussions had been ongoing for about a year-and-a-half. Ultimately, he explained safety and liability played a role in the final decision.
"(The school division) is totally liable if something happens...to these kids when they're on these trips, and we were starting to feel not very comfortable about that."
"When you send thirty or forty kids off, and something ever happens to them, I don't know if I'd want to be the guy having that discussion with all of the parents," added Smiley.
He noted there have also been some disciplinary issues that have come up in recent trips, making for a difficult experience for teachers and other chaperones.
Discussions around the board table also centred on fund-raising and whether it was reasonable for students to ask the community to help pay for the trips, or as Smiley put it, vacations, that can run in the neighbourhood of $4,000. Subsequently, this led to discussions of whether there is an equal opportunity for all students to take part in the trips.
These trips also came at a cost to the school division. Smiley explained just one of the associated expenses was providing substitute teachers to fill in for the staff that was away.
At the end of the day, Smiley feels it isn't up to the schools or school division to offer these opportunities and suggests interested parties could create a community travel club instead. "We're out of the travel business," he noted.
The final international trip approved by the Board will happen in 2021 out of Shevchenko School in Vita. W.C. Miller Collegiate in Altona is slated for one last trip scheduled for 2020.
BLSD Superintendent, Krista Curry, says the reaction of school administrators has been mixed.
"Of course there is disappointment, as this is a passion for those staff that organize (the trips) and the students who have attended. We know that there is value in travel," she explained. "There is also some who see the costs associated with the trips and the impact that those fundraising efforts have on a community and are ok with the decision for that reason."
Meantime, there have been some questions about future travel options within Canada or the United States and Curry said trustees will further discuss those in the new year.
She noted that co-curricular trips that support school programming, such as sports or band, are not affected by this decision and will still come to the Board for approval.