We would like to share some information how Westwind School Division will be dealing with school trips outside the US and Canada.
Requests for school trips to places such as Asia, Europe, South America, and even trips outside Alberta, fall under Policy 485.0 - Educational Travel (Outside of Alberta). The Board may grant approval for a trip, which places the group travelling under the Board’s liability insurance plan with ASBIE. ASBIE have now issued a travel warning document which reads in part:
"We strongly recommend for all international travel that [the Board] has sanctioned be re-evaluated.... All school trips going to Europe should make alternate arrangements and should meet with parents to discuss their travel arrangements and destination options.
The teacher-in-charge, the principal, and the school board have a legal obligation to ensure a safe and caring environment. Student, staff, and chaperone safety should be first and foremost."
The Board understands the importance of these responsibilities and does not take them lightly. Nor do teachers or administrators. Policy 485.0 reinforces the Board’s acknowledgement of this important responsibility in the following manner:
"7. Based upon the level of risk and potential liability associated with student travel outside Canada, the Board reserves the right to withdraw Board approval for such travel at any time. Further the Board will not be responsible for compensating parents, students, or staff or any costs associated with the withdrawal of approval."
All teachers, administrators, and the Board have the responsibility to educate students. But that does not mean putting them into potentially hazardous situations given the economic, political, and extremist situations of today. Should an incident occur to a group on a school trip, the teacher-in-charge, the Principal, and the School Board could be found liable. We all want to give our students the best education possible in safest and most caring environment we can create. Because of that, the Board will not be approving applications for school-sponsored students trips outside of Canada and the United States.
We realize that since some trips had been approved and that students, parents, and teachers have been working hard to raise funds, create travel plans, and that aspects of the class curriculum have been designed around this trip. Here are some other possible suggestions for these trips :
Community Trips: While the trip can no longer be planned, carried out, or supported in any way by the school, it can be planned, carried out, and supported in the community. This means that a group of community individuals, not affiliated with the school, could plan and carry out the trip. However, they could not plan the trip or advertise for the trip in a school building. For your information, Raymond’s trips have normally been organized by a community group instead of the school.
Canada and US Trips: The trip destination can be changed to another location in Canada or in the United States. We have been in contact with EF Tours and they are willing to work with trip organizers to change destinations and itineraries to conform with Board instructions. The Board will need to consider any change in destinations, and it would be up to the Board to approve or disapprove the trip, as always.
There are other options that can be pursued in terms of international travel, and we hope that parents and community members will be able to find the best arrangements for students well being and education.