Nova Scotia

Students will be "over the moon" at news of teachers' deal, says trip chaperone

A tentative agreement between the teachers' union and the Nova Scotia government will come as a relief to the 1,733 students booked on school trips this spring.

Students booked to go to U.S., Europe and Asia this spring

A visit to Vimy Ridge is set to be the highlight of Prince Andrew High School's European trip this year. (Michel Spingler/Associated Press)

School administrator John Stewart describes news of a tentative agreement between the teachers' union and the government as Christmas all over again at his house.

That's because he's one of five people escorting a group of Prince Andrew High School students on a European trip this spring.

"I'm just excited that it's actually going to take place. All this work wasn't in vain," Stewart said shortly after the deal was announced.

As a member of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Stewart and the teachers on the trip would have been bound by the work-to-rule protocol the NSTU has had in place since Dec. 5. It meant they would not have been allowed to escort the 32 students on the trip to France.

On Friday, the union asked teachers to suspend their work-to-rule campaign and start returning to normal activities Monday.

Students eager for travel

Stewart said Friday he's already getting messages from students eager to formally talk about their trip and finalize plans.

​"I think that they're going to be over the moon," he said.

The highlight of the trip will be a visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

Stewart said his students will be assigned to specific soldiers whose graves they will visit. Each student is expected to come up with a personal tribute to offer during a memorial service at the site.

Stewart has a personal reason to be excited about that particular stop on the tour.

"I have two grandfathers that were in the war and the cemetery that we were assigned is the cemetery that my grandfather is buried in," he said.

"So I'm going to be holding my memorial service at my grandfather's grave. His name was John Stewart, too."    

1,733 students booked for trips

Stewart's other grandfather took part in the First World War assault that is immortalized in the Canadian monument.

"There's so many different levels of excitement, it's just beyond my expectations," said Stewart.

Hundreds of students have been saving and planning for school trips as far away as China. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

It's likely Stewart isn't the only one relieved to hear of a tentative agreement between the union and the province.

Between now and the end of the school year, 1,733 students are booked to go on school trips. There are eight student groups traveling to Vimy from the Halifax Regional School Board alone. Other boards have approved trips to Quebec, the United States, Europe, Mexico and as far away as China.

According to information supplied by Nova Scotia school boards, 69 trips have been approved to go ahead between February and June. Of those, 27 excursions are scheduled to coincide with spring break between March 13 and March 17.

There are also two annual student exchanges, with 21 students registered to travel to Campeche, Mexico. Another 20 are scheduled to travel to Japan, but that trip won't happen until the summer holidays.

Normally, international trips take place during spring break or Easter to limit the number of teaching days missed by students, but at least eight schools are planning to take part in ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April. Some school boards have made an exception to the rules to allow the Vimy trips to go ahead.

Tour company has discussed alternate plans

Stewart said cancelling the trip would have been a huge disappointment given how much work has gone into fundraising and preparing for it over the past year. 

The teachers and students at Prince Andrew are scheduled to leave April 6. 

EF Tours, the Toronto-based company behind the Prince Andrew trip and many others planned for Europe, has been speaking with individual groups about the possibility of turning the school trips into community trips and replacing teacher chaperones with parents or other adults.

If teachers ratify this third tentative agreement, that will not be necessary and the trips will be able to go ahead as planned.