(Ed. note: After our Tuesday deadline had passed, Sunset School parents, staff and members of School Board District 85 worked towards a solution. The Sunset students will go on their field trips as planned. More to come here and in next week’s Gazette.)
Annual field trips that generations of students have looked forward to will not happen this year.
“There’s a Grade 5, five-day trip to Camp Homewood on Quadra Island and Grade 7’s fund raised for a five-day trip to Victoria,” said one angry mom of children who attend Port McNeill’s Sunset Elementary School.
Dr. Scott Benwell, SD85 superintendent, said the recent job action escalation by teachers put the trips in jeopardy.
“The field trips are in question as a result of teachers having withdrawn their services from extracurricular activity,” he said.
Because of the teachers’ job action earlier this year, parents — along with their children — took on the task of fund raising for the trips, said the angry mom, who asked her name be withheld.
“We’ve done tons; we’ve had a popcorn sale, a loonie auction, but the teachers have not collected the money because of the job action,” said the mother, who said she fondly remembers going on the same trips when she was a student.
“It is a highlight kids look forward to since kindergarten — it’s huge,” she said.
“It’s Camp Homewood, the Grade 7 trip and grad.”
Shana Shambrook, the Sunset Grade 7 fund raising coordinator, agreed.
“My daughter (and) her friends (were) absolutely crushed by the news they may lose their trip,” she said.
“This is a right of passage, a coming of age event each Grade 7 student has been waiting for their entire elementary school life.
“These kids hear all the great stories of trips of years past from their baby sitters, older siblings and friends … they have their roommates picked out in September — to them this is a big deal.”
Shambrook said she was approached by teachers to coordinate the fund raising for the event, “since they were worried about job action, etc.”
“To date we have raised just over $10,000,” she said.
“We have had a garage sale, Christmas raffle baskets, popcorn sales, (a) loonie auction, and a burger night (and) we literally were about to start a telephone bingo, and had plans for a barbecue/car wash in the near future.”
The children brought the fund raised money — which could amount to tens of thousands of dollars — to the office and handed it over to a secretary so it didn’t touch teachers’ hands.
But parents and students also learned parents are not allowed to fill in as chaperones that would allow the students to realize the trips.
That’s because it’s a school-sponsored trip, and the board has a policy on that — Board Policy 3-50 — as outlined in a letter from John Martin, secretary-treasurer of SD85.
“The kids will have to wait a year for the trips … funds raised for a particular purpose need to be kept in trust for that purpose,” he wrote.
“In other words, a school sponsored trip may not become a trip privately sponsored by parents using those funds.”
As well, if the trips don’t happen this school year, then the funds would follow the students until such time the trip can take place.
“For example, if a trip was planned for Grade 7 students at Eagle View or Sunset, and that trip does not happen this school year, then the funds should be transferred to PHSS or NISS, to enable the students to take the trip the following year,” said Martin in the letter.
If the Grade 5 trip to Camp Homewood doesn’t come off this year, then funds for that trip would be kept in trust at Sunset so the trip could take place in Grade 6.
“I know that is not ideal,” wrote Martin, “but it is a way to be fair to the students and their parents who did all of the hard work in fund raising, while respecting the board’s policy on fund raising and the commitments given to donors.”
But that’s policy, said Benwell.
“Funds raised in the name of a school trip cannot then be allocated to a privately run trip,” he said.
“That’s not an insult to parents or anyone else, but when we fund raise towards a particular trip, there’s some rigour around supervision, organization, safety — all of those things are the commitments we make.”
The superintendent said he has more than just a professional stake in the process.
“As dad, I get it,” said Benwell, who noted he has a child who was scheduled to go to Homewood this year.
“This resonates with me, too,” he said.
“But the facts are the teachers as a reaction of Bill-22 have withdrawn services to extra-cirricular activities and it affects these trips that have been planned.”