Highlights from the most recent School District 69 (Qualicum) board meeting on Jan. 28:
Following discussion in the fall about field trips requiring air travel, the board voted against a controversial motion concerning not supporting out-of-province field trips because of their environmental impact. Trips were already looked at on a case by case basis by the board and approved based on their educational value.
A Ballenas trip to Nicaragua was approved in principle at the most recent meeting. Schools superintenent Keven Elder said the board still encourages excursions to be as close to home as possible, but that this trip’s educational value outweighed its environmental impact.
“It’s a solid educational program, it’s a trip that’s been done a number of times by Ballenas,” said Elder. “I believe that the board understands and we understand the value of the trip…the question of air travel is now one of the key considerations for trustees.”
The impact was discussed, however, there’s a review underway of the field trip policy that Elder says will reinforce the idea that trips should be as close to home as possible.
“It’s seen as a benefit, going to Nicaragua, even with the carbon impact,” he said. “They’re also aware of what carbon offsets might look like, whether its financial or tree planting or some other means, so there’s a high social conscience around it.”
The board wrote a policy, building on an older motion, that solidified their stance on students engaging in peaceful protest. The policy says that students will not be penalized for engaging in peaceful protests during school hours, as long as they’re protesting issues of a recognized local, regional or global significance.
Elder said he brought the draft policy to student leadership teams across the district’s secondary schools and got feedback from the students.
“They were concerned that a blanket statement…would give too much license to students, one of the questions was would this allow students or even a student to be supported in a school time peaceful protest about a math test,” he said. “So they came up with the wording that would require for this to be a supported protest.”
Students also agreed that they would be responsible for making up any missed school work due to protesting.
A motion was passed and adopted that will now make menstrual products more accessible for students.
The products were already free at schools, but they’ll now be provided in bathrooms – eliminating the sometimes embarrassing or uncomfortable step of asking for them from teachers or other school staff.
All 60 school districts in B.C. are required to do this, following an announcement from the provincial government in April 2019.
The board passed a motion that will allow them to write a letter to the Ministries of Education and Finance, which Elder said will be sent out soon, asking for more funding, particularly in support of vulnerable learners.
“Part of that is to ensure that the funding model allows us to move away from reliance on other sources of funding, the international program brings about four million dollars into the school district, some of that goes into general revenue into the school district to put into programs across the district,” he said.
“So, that’s a reliance every district would rather not have.”
The board’s point, Elder said, is that they shouldn’t have to rely on that money to fund essential programs and services.
Parents are encouraged to sign their children up for kindergarten sooner rather than later, registration is open now and the board said it helps them plan for the fall the sooner they have numbers.
“It’s very important that people who have children turning five this year get into their neighbourhood school to register for kindergarten,” he said.
Elder also encourages parents with kids going into kindergarten to look into a new primary program that is being proposed for the district as a program of choice.
Registration for that is at the school district office and more information can be found on the district website at sd69.bc.ca.
The location is yet to be determined — the program is an alternative option for grades kindergarten to Grade three.
“[The program] will focus on the principals of play-based and outdoor learning and opportunities for a multi-age primary program, without being part of a larger school setting,” said Elder.
“It does appeal to many people.”
— NEWS staff