Nova Scotia

Hatchet Lake students raised thousands for cancelled school trip. Where does the money go?

Students and parents at Brookside Junior High School in Hatchet Lake, N.S., who raised tens of thousands of dollars for a year-end trip that was cancelled due to COVID-19 want a say in how their hard-earned money is spent.

Family at Brookside Junior High School says they've been given little information

Grade 9 students at Brookside Junior High School in Hatchet Lake, N.S., were supposed to spend four days in Toronto in May, but their trip was cancelled due to COVID-19. (CBC)

Students and parents at Brookside Junior High School in Hatchet Lake, N.S., who raised tens of thousands of dollars for a year-end trip that was cancelled due to COVID-19 want a say in how their hard-earned money is spent.

About $150,000 was raised for a Grade 9 trip to Toronto in May, parent Jocelyn Melanson told CBC's Information Morning. But she said families have been given little information about whether graduating students will see any of that money or if it will stay with the school.

"That's what we feel is really wrong," she said. "We get that this money is a little different and it's not a typical situation, but the kids need to have a say and they've worked really hard."

According to Melanson, about 80 kids were supposed to go on the trip, which cost about $1,800 per student. She said students and parents starting raising money back in October by selling 50/50 tickets.

She said she doesn't know how much of the money was spent on the trip before it was cancelled.

As of Tuesday, there are 310 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province.

Melanson started a petition urging the Halifax Regional Centre for Education to either reschedule the trip or put the funds in an education trust that students could use for high school or university. The petition had more than 1,100 signatures by April 7.

Her 14-year-old son, Adam Graves, raised money by riding his bike to neighbourhood homes selling tickets.

"There would be nights where I was going through rain or snow and everything like this, and I think I speak on behalf of the grade when I say that it was not easy to raise this money," he said.

Graves said students were supposed to spend four days in Toronto, and he was most looking forward to the plane ride there. Ideally, he'd like to see the trip rescheduled for later in the year.

"It's probably what everyone says is one of the most memorable moments of Brookside," he said.

School board says details are coming

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education declined to be interviewed, but spokesperson Doug Hadley said in an email that families can expect to receive more information from their school soon.

"We are aware families have questions about what happens now to the funds that were raised for these trips," he said. "We are working with our schools and the province to answer these questions."

In an email to Melanson over the weekend, the centre's executive director, Elwin LeRoux, said the province's Alcohol and Gaming Commission is involved because it's responsible for laws related to fundraising.

A spokesperson for the commission said under the Criminal Code, funds raised through a lottery, such as a 50/50 draw, can't benefit an individual.

"Charitable funds must go towards the intended purpose and if that is not possible in these extraordinary times, education leaders are looking to provide a refund to parents who paid cash, credit for future trips, or learning bursary for Grade 12 students," Gary Andrea wrote in an email.

He said the Alcohol and Gaming Commission has been working with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to find an acceptable place for the Brookside money to go. 

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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