UPDATED: Advisory on school trips overseas

Update: Monday, November 28, 2016

The WRDSB has concluded its review of the decision to cancel scheduled trips to Belgium and France.  Our decision-making in this process has reflected our desire to assure the safety and security of every traveler. As part of our review we considered information from a range of sources including:

  • Veterans Affairs and Global Affairs Canada
  • Vimy Foundation
  • Input of other boards of education in Ontario
  • Explorica Tours and EF Tours
  • Administrators and teachers
  • Students, parents and trustees
  • Insurance providers

With this additional information, the current security situation and recognizing the unique historical significance as Canada prepares to mark 100 years since the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we have elected to allow previously scheduled trips to Belgium and France to proceed this Spring.

Security and safety of our students and staff remain our primary concerns. Board-related travel to Belgium and France will proceed in March and April, 2017 with a range of additional measures designed to provide a greater level of safety assurance for all travelers.

As with any overseas travel, conditions may change between now and the date of departure. The Government of Canada currently advises travelers to exercise a high degree of caution due to the current elevated threat of terrorism. We will continue to monitor the security situation in Belgium and France and further communication and decision-making may be required if the Government of Canada changes its travel advisory information for the relevant countries.

Additional safety considerations

WRDSB will require all staff and students travelling to Belgium and France in Spring 2017 to complete a mandatory travel safety workshop before departure. We will provide further details on these workshops soon.

We will also require a minimum number of trip supervisors to be first aid and CPR-trained, a higher supervisor-to-student ratio and international roaming plans for supervisor smartphones.  WRDSB staff are working to put these arrangements in place.

We also require our travel providers to ensure that measures such as transportation seating plans, itinerary contingency plans and more are prepared and recorded with us before departure.

Cancellation information

We recognize that some travelers may wish to reevaluate their participation in these trips. WRDSB will work with travel companies to provide full refunds to those who cancel with the trip provider before December 16, 2016. After December 16, 2016, refunds will be based on cancellation insurance with travel companies.

We regret any inconvenience this process may have caused. We look forward to working together to ensure that these trips proceed safely and that students are afforded a rich and rewarding learning experience.

 

Update: Monday, November 21, 2016

Waterloo Region District School Board staff provided an update to trustees tonight on the status of the review into the decision to cancel all previously scheduled travel to Belgium and France.

No decisions have yet been taken. However, we expect to be able to confirm of the outcome of the review on Monday, November 28.

We apologize for any inconvenience this situation may have caused.

Update: Monday, November 14, 2016

The Waterloo Region District School Board will review its decision to cancel all previously scheduled travel to Belgium and France.

Staff will provide an update on the review to Trustees at the November 21 meeting of the Committee of the Whole and we will provide further information to students and parents as it becomes available.

Friday, November 11, 2016

With deep regret the Waterloo Region District School Board has made the decision to cancel all previously scheduled travel to Belgium and France.

We understand the disappointment this decision causes our students, staff and families. Our primary concern is always the safety and security of our students and staff – each and every one.

We rely on the expertise of the Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisory website to provide us with information relating to the safety and well-being of our students when travelling abroad.

Currently, the Government of Canada is advising travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution” when travelling to Belgium and France. Our Administrative Procedure 1580 Off Campus Categories I II III indicates that “only countries with a designation of ëExercise Normal Security Precautionsí will be considered as destinations.”

The board is taking steps to fully reimburse all students who paid a deposit to attend trips to the Vimy Ridge commemoration in April 2017. On Monday, we will send letters to the parents and caregivers of the affected students to inform them of this decision.