B.C. schools considering alternatives to U.S. travel over border uncertainty | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. schools considering alternatives to U.S. travel over border uncertainty

KAMLOOPS - B.C. school districts are quietly putting plans in place in case students on class trips are interrupted on what used to be routine trips across the U.S. border.

The B.C. School Trustees Association sent out guidelines and suggestions earlier this spring as advice to school districts on crossing the border between Canada and the U.S.A. The concern is field or band trips heading south may be stopped at the border and students, teachers or chaperones could be stopped for further questioning or stopped altogether due to the political climate in the U.S. right now.

In Kelowna, Central Okanagan School District secretary treasurer Larry Paul says his school district created a worst case scenario plan in case a student was blocked or detained.

“What we’ve done is asked the trip leaders to be prepared to phone the superintendent if any issues come up,” he says.

No issues are expected as most class trips going south of the border are already done and back with no problems, but four more are left.

Paul says if teachers feel it’s necessary to hold the trip back, the district would support that, but it can quickly get more complicated.

“If they want to continue and leave a child behind we’d have to have the conversation,” he says. “I’m not sure we’d want to send that message to our students.”

Assistant Supt. Bill Hamblett with the Kamloops school district says the advice from the trustees association was fairly common sense.

“They were basic guidelines and suggestions in case we have students travelling to the U.S.,” he says. “In case a student, teacher or chaperone required more questioning. It’s good common sense to have a plan whenever you’re crossing an international boundary.”

For example, he says, it was along the lines of not wearing an anti-Trump T-shirt while crossing the border.

It’s less of an issue for Kamloops as all trips to the U.S. this year have gone and come back, with the most recent going to California for a school band trip. Only two or three usually go south per year.

In Kelowna it’s more of an issue, Paul says, and it may mean the district sends fewer classes south in a year.

“Do we continue with trips to the U.S. or look at field study alternatives,” he says.

Both Paul and Hamblett say there are plenty of options in Canada, but some you can’t. One of the trips is to New York City and Washington D.C.

“You can’t go to the Smithsonian Museum in Canada,” Paul says.

Other trips, like band trips, could be rescheduled to look at places in Canada. Paul admits fewer trips to the U.S. means a loss to hands-on education.

“At this point we feel the risks are relatively low,” he says. “It might change with a tweet. I’m not sure that was the intent, but that's the unintended result of some of the restrictions.”

The B.C. School Trustees Association declined to comment on the organization's communication with school districts because of legal issues.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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