Letter to the editor

I am the parent of three young children (ages 3, 5 and 7) and am grateful to live in a place with exceptional outdoor activities. 

Taking part in outdoor activity is an important part of the culture that we enjoy in the East Kootenays. Unfortunately, I have learned over the past year that School District No. 6 is pushing policies into place that severely limit the ability for students to take part in field trips.

This access restriction to outdoor spaces is being implemented through the District Field Trip Policy. I very recently learned that the already limiting policy has come up for review with amendments that intend to make it even harder to get kids outdoors. (Policy 8600: field trips, you can view it by searching School District 6 policies under review.) 

This is being done under the guise of managing risk. Despite a history of safe trips the school district took away many students’ only access to outdoor activities and intends to restrict access even further. This is being done in spite of and in complete disregard for the concern of parents and teachers. For example, skiing was brought up by the parent advisory council (PAC) as culturally significant. We wrote a letter explaining why we disagreed with these policies and we received no response. Instead, skiing is now explicitly singled out as a banned activity for Grades K to 3 in the proposed policy. Giving younger kids the opportunity to try something, such as skiing in a supported, safe and affordable environment allows them to feel confident as they grow and mature.

The policy makes it harder to get classes outdoors. Two months advance notice, complex forms and approval processes, and excessive supervision ratios all contribute to a crippling, parasitic drag on the classroom. Under the new policy many venues will be banned for K-3 students, including (but not limited to): Nipika, all ski resorts and national parks. Mandating a 1:6 ratio for walking field trips will make it difficult to even get out the door.

Research shows that outdoor education is universally beneficial for kids, improving mental health, academic performance, behaviour management and much more. The community needs to speak up and let the district know that we want our kids outdoors.

Mike Caswell, Invermere