Province allowing parents, travel companies to sort out school trips amid COVID-19 outbreak
'The decision, at the end of the day, rests with parents on whether they want to send their children overseas'
The decision to cancel or alter international school trips amid concerns over COVID-19 rests with travel companies and parents, Nova Scotia's Education Minister Zach Churchill said Friday.
Officials from the province's regional centres for education met with the Education Department's acting deputy minister on Thursday to discuss the issue.
Churchill said travel companies and parents are in the best position to make decisions about whether trips should be cancelled or altered, and that his department does not need to step in.
"We've been reassured that the current processes and local decision-making is working. Folks are being given the latest information on travel restrictions and travel warnings, and that is impacting decisions on travel," said Churchill at the legislature.
"The situation remains fluid and may evolve, so we reserve the right to act differently, if necessary."
Parents to receive letter
Churchill said his department is working to ensure the decision-making process is made clearer for students and parents. The regional centres will be issuing letters outlining the process, he said.
"The decision, at the end of the day, rests with parents on whether they want to send their children overseas or not," said Churchill.
He said the regional centres are working with travel companies to ensure parents will be able to recoup funds if a trip is cancelled.
But he recognized that parents stand to lose money if they decide not to send their child and the travel company does not cancel the trip.
"Parents are in the best position to make a decision they believe is in the interest of health and safety of their child or the financial implications to their family," said Churchill.
Trips can be changed without penalty: tour company
EF Educational Tours Canada, which runs student trips, said in a statement that it has reached out to groups planning trips to regions impacted by coronavirus.
"Some groups are changing itineraries, some are postponing their trips, while others want to continue monitoring the situation and make a decision closer to departure," said spokesperson Adam Bickelman.
Bickelman said the company's policies allow groups to delay or change their plans — including to domestic options — without penalty, or take a refund in the form of a travel voucher up to the day of departure.