Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
August 27, 2001
School district sets limits on fiels trips
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Beginning this fall, there won't be any bungee jumping, skydiving, open water scuba diving or boxing for Catholic students.
These sports are among 21 prohibited activities listed on Edmonton Catholic Schools' new field trip policy.
"These activities have been banned because we believe, based on experience and discussions with other school jurisdictions, that the risk for student injury far exceeds any potential benefit," superintendent Dale Ripley said Aug. 21.
The goal of the new policy is to allow students to participate in worthwhile and meaningful field trips but in a way that will ensure their safety, he said. "Student safety is our primary concern."
Students and staff may be involved in some of these activities recreationally on their own. "But that's quite different than us condoning it in the schools because it's not part of the phys ed curriculum and in our view it just puts students at far too great a risk," Ripley said.
The new policy also outlines and clarifies the responsibilities of field trip supervisors, including parents, depending on the nature of the activity that takes the students off school property.
The policy restricts elementary students to trips within Alberta. Junior high students can travel within Canada but won't be allowed out of the country.
High school students will continue to be allowed to travel to places that are considered safe such as Europe and the U.S. Out-of-province and out-of-country field trips require central office authorization.
"It's not our intention to deprive students of the opportunity to travel," explained Joan Carr, director of educational planning.
"The aim of our new policy is to ensure that students are provided access to such field trips that are educationally relevant, legally sound and most significantly safe for all of those who choose to participate."
The policy change wasn't in response to any incident in particular other than just an attempt to keep policies current, the superintendent said. "We change our policies on an ongoing basis so they are current with what the beliefs and customs of the time are."
Edmonton Catholic started to update its field trip policy two years ago, long before several students died on field trips.
Nazeem Kazim, a 13-year-old public school student, died on a class trip to Allan Beach in June last year.
The Calgary Board of Education banned extreme sports after two students and a parent chaperone drowned on a trip to California in March 2000.
Ripley admitted the new policy is tight but said it still allows field trips.
"In working with our principals we tried to strike a balance between something that was too loose that it put kids at risk and something that was too tight that teachers and principals couldn't actually make it work," he said.
"None of the prohibited activities that are on the list are in the phys ed curriculum. You don't have to do them."
Parents, who were consulted on changes to the policy early on, will get the final version of the policy when the new school year begins. The policy will be distributed to parent councils in September.
Even though it won't bring much change to students and parents, the policy will require more paperwork for teachers planning trips and for sports coaches, who will have to provide parents with detailed trip itinerary.
Permission slips will include information on every activity students take part in, from sports to swimming.
"When a parent signs a field trip form giving permission for their son or daughter to go on a trip, ultimately we want two things out of that," Ripley said.
"We want a really memorable, strong educational experience for the student. And secondly, we want to return him/her home safely. And we think that this policy goes a long way to ensuring that both of those things are in place."
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