Brandon, Man. school officials reviewing trip cancellation policies in wake of Paris attacks

School division officials in Brandon, Man. are reading the fine print on school travel packages more closely now in the wake of last month's attacks in Paris and other unrest across the globe.

School board trustees raise concerns amid global unrest

Vincent Massey Collegiate students hugged friends and family when they got home from Paris last month. Seven students and two teachers from Winnipeg were on the trip to France when the attacks on Paris occurred. (CBC)

School division officials in Brandon, Man. are reading the fine print on school travel packages more closely now in the wake of last month's attacks in Paris and other unrest across the globe. 

The issue was brought up at a Brandon School Division board meeting earlier this week when trustees were asked to approve a trip in March 2017 to Italy for around 30 drafting and design students. 

"My concern with this, of course, is the current state of the world," Dr. Linda Ross said at the meeting this week. "I'm wondering if it's possible to at this point approve it in principle but revisit it."

"I don't believe the current state of affairs in the world has changed since Sept. 11, 2001," trustee Jim Murray told the board. "I think that danger exists if we send students to Toronto or Ottawa... I think it exists wherever we send students." 

Greg Malazdrewicz, assistant superintendent of the Brandon School Division, said Thursday that while the division does review trip plans and current events in the world frequently, they are planning to read the cancellation policies of those trips a little more closely. 

"We do [review trips] all the time," he said. "We review everything from what are the components of the trips, how are students traveling to and from, what support there is from carriers, licensing. But also what happens when they are on land."

"What we will be looking at more closely at is cancellation packages and cancellation criteria."  

Malazdrewicz said once approved by the board, trips are reviewed again before students leave and things like insurance coverage, final scheduling, foreign affairs travel updates and current events in the world are all looked at. 

"We will maintain the high level of scrutiny on trips," he added.

The division typically approves between six and 10 trips per year. Brandon School Division trustees approved the trip to Italy. 

Parents want international trips to continue 

Malazdrewicz said many parents are in favour of the division continuing to allow students to go on trips. 

"The parents, while they have been alert, they have been very supportive continuing with all of the scheduled trips that we have at this point."

He said parents were hoping the division wasn't going to cancel trips altogether. 

Schools in Edmonton and British Columbia have nixed international trips in the wake of the Paris attacks. 

Travel company sees 'handful' of change requests 

EF Educational Tours organizes trips for thousands of schools across Canada and hundreds in Manitoba. They say that while no Manitoba school groups have officially cancelled their trips, a handful have inquired about possible changes.

Adam Bickelman, spokesperson for the tour company, said in a statement Thursday that the company is currently absorbing most of the costs to change trip plans.

"Another thing we did in the aftermath of the tragic attacks in Paris was to freeze cancellation fees until the end of the year," he added.     

The vast majority of school trips are continuing as planned, Bickelman said. 


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