School field trips to take place without teachers

PORT McNEILL-Administrators, parents meet at Sunset Elementary after teachers vote to withdraw services from extracurricular activities

PORT McNEILL—Sunset Elementary School students will travel for a pair of popular field trips this spring, but their teachers will remain behind.

The weeklong trips — a grade 4-6 excursion to Camp Homewood on Quadra Island May 14-18 and a grade 7 visit to Victoria June 11-15 — were placed in jeopardy after B.C. teachers voted to withdraw services from extracurricular activities.

Following a hastily called meeting with parents Tuesday evening, administrators at Sunset Elementary School have decided the field trips will take place as scheduled, with administrators taking on supervisory roles.

“We are thrilled the kids get to go on the field trips they’ve fundraised all year to go on,” said Rena Sweeney, Sunset principal.

Larry Burroughs, the retired former principal of Cheslakees Elementary in Port McNeill, will be hired as acting vice principal for a week to lead the grade 7 trip with a group of parent chaperones. Sweeney and Drew Nielson, principal of A.J. Elliott School in Sointula, will share supervision of the Camp Homewood trip. Parent volunteers will also take part on that field trip, which will include grade 5 students from A.J. Elliott and Port Hardy’s Fort Rupert Elementary School.

“Camp Homewood has been very accommodating so Drew and I can split the week there,” said Sweeney, who noted spring is a particularly difficult time for administrators to be away from their duties for extended periods of time.

The field trips were threatened with postponement after the B.C. Teachers Federation, which includes the Vancouver Island North Teachers Association, voted April 17-19 to withdraw services from extracurricular activities.

That vote, approved by 73 per cent of BCTF members, was the latest salvo in a nearly yearlong action to establish a new collective bargaining agreement with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, and was a direct response to the government’s passage of Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act.

When notified the teachers would not be taking part in the overnight field trips, and that funds raised by the students for the trips would be held by School District 85, several Sunset parents reacted angrily.

SD85 officials assured the families the funds would be held for the trips, but those trips could be postponed indefinitely if district staffers were unable to travel during the dates scheduled.

Sweeney sent a letter home Tuesday with students in the affected classes, inviting families to a meeting that evening to discuss alternatives to the field trips. About two dozen parents attended and offered suggestions, comments and criticism.

Parents offered to work on and draw up a plan for the overnight trips, but Sweeney set some ground rules.

“My comfort-level includes a teacher,” she said, hoping someone holding a teacher’s certification could be involved in the trip. Many parents liked this idea.

“There’s this bond of trust between the kids and the teachers,” said Penny Mills, pointing out that students would be in a new environment with possible strangers. Other parents disagreed, and said the bond of trust had been broken.

“They’ve been waiting all year for this,” said Shanna Shambrook. “We can’t take this away from them.”

After contacting Burroughs and Camp Homewood officials, Sweeney sent another letter on Wednesday informing the families the trips would take place as scheduled, with administrators in charge.

“The trips were never cancelled,” said Sweeney. “The reservations were still being held while we looked at possibilities to make the trips happen. We went to the parents looking for solutions.”

School District 85 superintendent Scott Benwell said the decision on the trips was up to the school’s administrators.

“This is a school-based decision, with support of the district office,” said Benwell. “It is always a local school principal’s decision, but of course we work with the principals and support them.

“We really want to compliment the parents and the administrators for approaching this with a can-do attitude, and we’re pleased students will be going on the trips.”

The long-term outlook for overnight school trips is less certain, while the teachers continue their fight to maintain full collective bargaining rights and restore class size and composition limits.

“We understand the relationship between students and teachers,” said Fred Robertson, VINTA president. “This is the most difficult part of any of our job actions, to be honest, and it’s only entered into very reluctantly in response to the odious threat posed by the passage of Bill 22. Children stand to be hurt by the cuts, the loss of class size limits, the loss of resources and the loss of due process.”

 

Just Posted

Rumble on the Runway returns to Port McNeill Airport

Rumble on the Runway, the North Island Timing Association’s annual summer drag… Continue reading

VIDEO: Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre Grad 2018

Grade 12 student Jade Hanuse was presented with her diploma from Principal Sheila Mcgrath.

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Port Hardy takes next step towards legal cannabis sales

Two public hearings were held to seek input on cannabis zoning bylaw

Kervin’s Corner: Eye sore or tourist attraction? District of Port Hardy to display windmill blade anyway

Do you like the idea of putting up the windmill blade on display in Port Hardy?

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

Man shot dead in Surrey ID’d as hockey coach and father of two

Murder of Paul Bennett – a respected Peace Arch Hospital worker and ‘champion of sport’ – ‘not random’

Serial killer Robert Pickton transferred to Quebec: victim’s family

Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of six counts of second degree murder

Canadian Syrian children’s choir not to attend festival over fears about U.S. travel

Many kids are recent immigrants from countries covered by Trump travel ban

Amalgamation fails in North Cowichan and Duncan

North Cowichan says yes, but Duncan says no

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

Jett Woo highlights 5 Canucks choices on Day 2 of NHL entry draft

WHL star out of Moose Jaw tabbed in Round 2

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

Most Read