October 22nd, 2020

COVID-19 taking toll on public school trips


By Bobinec, Greg on March 10, 2020.

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald

gbobinec@lethbridgeherald.com

The Lethbridge School Division has announced cancellations to some of their international student trips for this year, with North American trips still in discussion with schools and parents on whether they should cancel with the rise of the COVID-19 infection spreading.

The Division has taken the initiative to cancel international trips to Germany, as well as a trip to Ireland, Scotland and England for the students at Winston Churchill High School, due to the risk of infection through international travel and entering higher-risk zones. With a handful of North American trips planned, the school board says it is up to parents and the schools to make the decision to cancel or not, as there is currently no travel advisory for the area.

“We have cancelled the exchange that we had going to Germany. We had a small group of students, we cancelled that trip last week,” says Christine Lee, associate superintendent, business affairs. “We have asked our schools to take a look at their other trips. We have some trips to Anaheim, Nashville, New York, and we’re consulting with parents on what they think they should do, whether that is cancelling the trips or not.”

Lethbridge Collegiate Institute released a statement regarding the travel cancellation for its band and choir trip to Anaheim, California, along with any other student travel plans throughout the U.S.

“Recent health events across the globe surrounding COVID-19 have caused us to take time to reflect on our international trips, as well as scheduled trips to the U.S.A. and within Canada,” says Wayne Pallett, principal of LCI, in a letter to parents. “At this time, Lethbridge Collegiate Institute administration is cancelling all trips to the U.S. for the remainder of the school year. As a result, our Anaheim band/choir trip will no longer proceed. As a school, this has been a difficult decision, but our first priority is the health and safety of our students and staff.”

School boards and parents are working together to find the right solution for students to still have international experiences, but keeping in mind the risk of contracting the COVID-19 infection while travelling. Lee says student safety is top priority when they are travelling with schools and if COVID-19 spreads, the board will step in and restrict travel for the safety of the students and staff.

“We are keeping an eye on the COVID-19 situation around the world because, of course, the safety of our students is primary priority when it comes to student travel and because we are looking at trips that are in the United States,” says Lee. “Currently there isn’t any alerts to say that it isn’t safe to travel there, but we have left that decision up to the schools in consultation with the parents to make sure they discuss it. Should we see the situation escalate in the United States, any reports that indicate that it isn’t safe to travel, then of course the board always reserves the right to cancel those trips.”

Parents with students who have plans with schools for international travel in 2020 are advised to call the schools and organizers of the trips to have the discussion on whether it is safe for them to travel.

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