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Travel club speaks up on KSD liability concerns

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In the May 12 edition of the Opasquia Times, the Times spoke with the Executive Director of the Manitoba School Boards Association (MSBA) Josh Watt who talked about MSBA’s policy attitudes towards travel clubs and liability concerns.
The question of liability has been a subject of debate between The Pas (Global) Travel Club and the Kelsey School Division (KSD) Board of Trustees for some time now with the KSD Board recently passing a policy change during their last meeting barring all commercial advertising in KSD schools, just one meeting after The Pas Travel Club made a presentation to the KSD Board of Trustees.
This was one decision that The Pas Travel Club was against, as its main focus according to the chaperones and organizers of the travel club is to help students travel and learn about the world, touring different countries, learning about the history, culture and people of the respective countries that they travel to. According to the club, liability shouldn’t even be a problem as the insurance company the club uses, Explorica, which focus on educational tours and student travel, has $50 million in liability insurance.
“The biggest thing is that all the things that (Josh Watt) said, all the things he said that the travel groups focus on are what we focus on. We focus on safety, and we have a company that specializes in youth travels, in education, in cultural experiences. All the things that he said in the paper is exactly what we do in our trips, in terms of being safe we have $50 million in liability insurance though our company. Our company employs another company that does worldwide monitoring for safety and everything else, Joanne’s (Basson, Chaperone for The Pas Travel Club) got years of experience with the previous people that ran the club; her and I got seven years’ experience running the club. We have retired people who’ve had children and had grandchildren, if anyone can suggest a safer way to have your students travel, bring it to us and explain it to us on how it makes it safer,” said Darwin Marshall, Chaperone for The Pas (Global) Travel Club.
“That’s their insurance not our insurance,” said Vaughn Wadelius, adding the Travel Clubs insurance won’t cover libility to the school division.
“Our insurance people say no, that’s the bottom line. It has nothing to do with us, it’s not our travel club, it’s his travel club or somebody else’s travel club,” Wadelius added.
Watt in the May 12 edition of the Times cited there are exceptions for other travel clubs that do education trips such as Educational Tours, but as Marshall explained that is the same thing as what the travel club does.
“Same thing except we do mostly European. It’s all about history, it’s all about culture, it’s all about education, it all follows what the school policy suggests if there is going to be travel, it should be to the benefit of the students,” Marshall said.
The specific policy that Marshal was referring to was the KSD policy titled Philosophy of the Kelsey School Division under which states “Materials used should reflect the Canadian experience and encourage the development of identity as Canadians while promoting international understanding and an appreciation of global interdependence.”
“That statement says it all and there’s nothing in that statement that we don’t cover including beyond that giving Canada a good name internationally, it goes further than that,” Marshall added.
“It certainly doesn’t fall under our educational perspective, there’s nothing wrong with international travel per se, but we’re not running a travel program,” said Wadelius.
Another decision that Marshall wasn’t too impressed by was the way that the KSD Board of Trustees went about making this decision to bar the travel club from advertising in schools. The decision was made in-camera, something Marshall felt went against the school policy. That specific policy is Board Meeting Procedures (code BDD) which states “The only items that will be discussed in camera will be those dealing with personnel, negotiations, land acquisition and/or litigation.”
“The fact that they made the initial decision in-camera again goes against the school policy of being open to the public, bringing the public to the table to discuss issues before they made a decision, we weren’t notified other than a letter saying don’t come back into the school,” said Marshall, also adding, “And the public never knew about it neither.”
Wadelius didn’t eloborate on the in-camera part of the discussion but he did add that the decision was made by the board and the letter to the Travel Club was undertaken by the superintendent of KSD, Julia McKay.
“I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. There was discussions in general about it and when we looked at the recommendations that we were getting from our association and we just directed the superintendent to take action. It was the superintendent who took the action and wrote the letter. We do that a lot, the superintendent is our person to do a lot of things; we don’t do it individually as board members,” explained Wadelius.
The Pas Travel Club when they made their presentation to the Kelsey School Division back in April cited several other examples of community organizations being able to host other programs in the school, and even commercial events such as the Trappers’ Festival Trade Show which takes place at Opasquia School (under KSD) every year annually.
“In our 10 minutes that we were allowed to ask questions we tried stuffing as much stuff in there as possible. We did bring up 4-H and we brought up the Rotary Exchange Program, and we were told that’s not a school program, it’s students. I was thinking this morning too, when the school rents out the gymnasium for the Trappers’ Festival Trade Show, there’s way more presence and way more to us liability concerns than with us having a meeting at the school,” explained Marshall.
Another recent development involving The Pas Travel Club was a letter sent from KSD to the Travel Club asking the club not to use the word student and instead say youth.
Wadelius concluded that KSD doesn’t want to be involved with travel related groups.
“It’s pretty straight forward and pretty simple, there’s nothing more to say; I mean it’s that simple. We don’t want to be in the travel business period,” Wadelius said.
During The Pas Travel Club’s last meeting which took place inside the A&W meeting room, they had a total of 11 people joining in the meeting, those including adults as well as some students. Talk about their next trip which will be going through various locations in Italy and Greece was held.
The Pas Travel Club’s next meeting hasn’t been set yet, but you can contact them though its Facebook page at Global Travel (The Pas) or you can contact the travel club itself at gtcthepas@hotmail.com.

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Trent Allen
EDITOR
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