Calgary public school board puts hold on student trips abroad over 'recent global events'

The Calgary public school board is pressing pause on all international trips for students over concerns about recent overseas attacks.

Calgary Board of Education says final decision on trips this school year to be made by winter break

Sydney Smith, director of Area V for the Calgary Board of Education, told reporters the board decided to "hit the pause button" on plans for international school trips and will make an ultimate decision on Dec. 18 after consulting with parents.

The Calgary public school board is pressing pause on all international trips for students over concerns about recent overseas attacks.

All schools are asked to suspend planning such trips while the Calgary Board of Education gets input from students, teachers and parents involved in such excursions. 

"Recent global events have caused us to take time to reflect on trips outside of Canada," the board, chaired by Joy Bowen-Eyre, said in a release.

"We believe there is a need to take some time to make thoughtful and informed decisions."

Two weeks ago, attacks in Paris left 130 dead and injured hundreds, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claiming responsibility. There has since been violence in Mali and elevated threat levels in Brussels, as the Belgian capital underwent several days of lockdown.

Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs has issued advisories for travellers to both France and Belgium, where the Paris attacks are believed to have been plotted.

"You should exercise a high degree of caution due to the current elevated threat of terrorism," the department's website says of both countries.

'Pause button'

Sydney Smith, an area director with the CBE, told reporters the board decided to "hit the pause button" on plans for all international school trips, including some trips that had been planned to France, including Paris.

CBE on 'pausing' international student travel

7 years ago
Duration 4:00
Sydney Smith of the Calgary Board of Education says all four major education boards in the province are suspending international travel for students based on 'recent global events'

The CBE will make a final decision on international travel by Dec. 18, she added.

"What we're looking for from parents is some perspective so that can help guide our decision making," Smith said.

She said that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., the CBE "halted all international travel for the remainder of that school year."

Smith said CBE is not alone.

"All four metro (school) boards in Alberta have had some conversation about this and will be looking to review," she said.

Edmonton board also halts trips

The Edmonton Public School Board is taking similar action, said spokesman Brad Armstrong. On Thursday, the board told principals that, for the foreseeable future, international field trips are on hold, he said.

"It's a difficult decision and we know some people will be disappointed — but we will err on the side of caution," he said.

"We will communicate with parents, students, caregivers as final decisions are made about specific trips currently planned."

Parent group applauds move

The president of the Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils said the board is doing the right thing.

"I think there's no question, with the current events, with the fact that you have France in a state of emergency, and you have other Western democracies at a high terror threat, this is very prudent of them to take a look at whether this is the right time to be travelling," Lisa Davis said.

The Calgary board says a final decision on travel for this school year will be made before winter break.

Decision made too quickly?

Barbara Ramage is with the William Aberhart Music Parents Association.

Barbara Ramage of the William Aberhart Music Parents Association says the decision to pause travel may have been done too quickly. (Dave Gilson/CBC )

She's concerned the decision may affect already-planned trips.

"That's a really short time frame to be able to make alternate arrangements," Ramage said.

"All of the kids look forward to these trips and it's an important part of their education."


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