Barrhead-Westlock - Pembina Hills School Division trustees passed a motion at their Sept. 8 meeting to suspend any international trips by local students for the duration of the 2021-2022 school year, though travelling within Canada is still allowed provided there are no provincial health restrictions preventing such trips.
As outlined in the division’s Policy 60-03, every national or international trip by Pembina Hills students must be given “approval in principle” by the board prior to discussions with students and parents. (Final approval is given by the superintendent or another designated administration member.)
Assistant Supt. of Education Services Mark Thiesen said the board had originally passed a motion at their Aug. 5, 2020 meeting to suspend international trips for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year.
This suspension would be reviewed in the summer of 2021. However, after consulting with high school principals, it was determined that many of the same issues that forced the original suspension are still in play.
For instance, Thiesen said administrators and principals cited the uncertainty around the ability to cross international borders and the unknown (and frequently-changing) restrictions that may be in effect in other countries.
Another issue is the "complexity of logistics required for potential refunds of travel program expenses that would need to be committed in advance by participants,” he said.
That said, Thiesen said any national tours could continue unless there were provincial or federal restrictions preventing travel within Canada.
Trustee Kerry McElroy put forward the motion to suspend international tours for the duration of the current school year, which will be reviewed in the summer of 2022.
The motion noted the board can still hear proposals for international trips occurring in the 2022-2023 school year.