TCDSB cancels all school trips to Europe in spring due to COVID-19 fears
Decision made after parents suggested trips should be cancelled, board says
The Toronto Catholic District School Board has cancelled all March Break and Easter school trips to Europe for high school students due to concerns about the novel coronavirus.
Shazia Vlahos, director of communication for the TCDSB, said in an interview with CBC Toronto on Tuesday that the decision to cancel the trips affects 12 schools. The majority of the trips involved travel either to or through Italy, she added.
"It's been on the minds of officials for quite some time," Vlahos said.
"We have received a number of inquiries from parents asking us what we were going to do, suggesting that we should be considering cancelling, given some of the growing concerns with the cases being spread through Europe," she added.
"We want to make sure, if our staff and students are travelling, that they are safe. We take, of course, anything that might pose a risk to health of students and staff seriously."
The schools affected are: Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton; Brebeuf College; Cardinal Carter; Centro Scuola; Father John Redmond; Father Henry Carr; Loretto Abbey; Madonna; Monsignor Percy Johnson; Neil McNeil; St. Basil College; and St. Patrick.
In an email to trustees on Tuesday, Rory McGuckin, TCDSB director of education, said he was told by principals of the schools that many parents were hoping that the board would cancel the trips. He added he made the decision to cancel the trips "out of an abundance of caution."
"Our board does not allow travel to places that pose a risk to the health of our students, and we do not consider travel to these countries to be safe," McGuckin said.
"There exist concerns that our students and staff could be exposed to to the virus in airports and other public spaces, while on tour, or potentially even endure lengthy quarantines. The senior team believes this is the right thing to do in these challenging times."
McGuckin noted that cancellation insurance provisions only take effect once the board actually cancels the trips. He said schools are not permitted to cancel on their own without "suffering consequences" from insurance provisions.