Terror attacks could force cancellation of field trips

Maple Ridge students could have their hopes for a spring break trip of their dreams dashed because of the danger that remains in the wake...

Maple Ridge students could have their hopes for a spring break trip of their dreams dashed because of the danger that remains in the wake of November’s terror attacks in Paris.

A letter last week from the school district to parents says if the situation in Europe doesn’t improve, trips to the continent this coming spring break could be cancelled.

About 70 students from Garibaldi, Thomas Haney, Maple Ridge and Westview secondary schools are planning to go to Paris in March.

The trips are for language, culinary arts and cultural purposes.

“It’s unfortunate, of course, and we totally understand the disappointment many students and their families will experience as a result of that,” said Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board chair Mike Murray.

But student safety is the first priority and district policy means it has to watch for and respond to travel advisories.

Other school districts are doing the same, he added. Edmonton and Calgary Catholic school districts have cancelled all international trips.

The Vancouver school board so far hasn’t issued any advisories on the topic.

It’s possible the situation in Europe could improve.

But, “At this point, I think we have to give people has much advance warning as possible,” Murray said.

Trips haven’t been cancelled yet, “but what we’re telling people is – there’s a good possibility they will be – if the situation fails to improve.”

He couldn’t say when a decision to cancel trips will be made. People who’ve put in deposits will have their money refunded. And so far, only trips to France, and Europe, are being affected.

Shannon Derinzy, instruction director with the school board, wrote to parents last week, saying there is no nationwide travel advisory in effect in France, but the Canadian government warns people “to exercise a high degree of caution due to the current, elevated threat of terrorism.”

France remains under its highest alert level.

The Nov. 13 attacks killed 130 people at seven locations in Paris. The attackers were either French or Belgian born.

Derinzy said in her letter that Europe will be monitored over the next few months.

“If this situation worsens or fails to improve, the school district will need to review, and possibly cancel, any field trips that may put our students and staff at risk.

“Our hope truly is for a positive outcome because we know that a lot of students would be disappointed if we do need to cancel these trips. But the safety of our students and staff will ultimately be the deciding factor,” Derinzy added later.