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Coronavirus: Some Okanagan school trips continue while others are cancelled

Okanagan Student International Trips Impacted by COVID-19
The coronavirus threat is prompting the cancellation of at least 10 international school trips over spring break, impacting hundreds of Okanagan students. Shelby Thom reports.

While some Okanagan school trips will not be taking off because of COVID-19, other valley students are still headed overseas on class trips over spring break.

Some 10 school trips from Okanagan school districts have been cancelled to date, but at least three are still clear for take-off.

Okanagan Skaha School District

In the South Okanagan, the Okanagan Skaha School District announced it is cancelling all international travel until the end of April.

READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

That means a planned trip by students to New York during spring break and a Robotics Team trip to Texas will not go ahead.

The district had already canceled a planned trip to Europe earlier this week over COVID-19 concerns. 16 students, from all three of the district’s high schools, had been scheduled to go to France, England and Amsterdam.

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B.C.’s top doctor warns of spring break travel risk during COVID-19 outbreak
B.C.’s top doctor warns of spring break travel risk during COVID-19 outbreak

Central Okanagan School District

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Central Okanagan School District said it has reviewed all of its planned trips on a case-by-case basis and has cancelled five trips to Europe and the United States.

It is hoping to avoid, not only anyone getting sick, but also the possibility that a group could end up being quarantined in a foreign country.

READ MORE: Quebec calls for isolation of all travellers returning from abroad to limit spread of coronavirus

“The risk is just too high at this time,” said district superintendent Kevin Kaardal.

“We will review other scheduled trips as we get back from our spring break.”

The school district said it believes several hundred students were impacted by the trip cancellations.

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Vernon School District

The Vernon School District said, as of Thursday, three planned spring break trips to Europe are still going ahead.

The district said that one group left for Germany, Austria and France on Wednesday, while another group will leave for England and Scotland on Saturday and a third trip to London will depart on Sunday.

The district said officials have considered the available information and feel, as of Thursday, that the trips can proceed as planned.

Late Thursday afternoon, the school district announced it had called a special board meeting for 5 p.m. and would “be able to confirm details of upcoming field trips after that time.”

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“The Board of Education fully supports the learning and memories school trips provide and appreciates the volunteer time and commitment teachers provide on these trips,” spokesperson Maritza Reilly said in a statement.

“The board wants to ensure that parents have all of the necessary information to decide if their child will participate in field trips.”

The district said that if the federal government “includes a travel advisory for COVID-19 for one of the trip destinations, prior to departure, the trip approval will be rescinded.”

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North Okanagan Shuswap School District

The North Okanagan Shuswap School District said two student trips planned for spring break will not be going ahead due to COVID-19 concerns.

The school board pulled the plug on a trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, France and England by 12 students from Eagle River Secondary.

The district said another trip, by around 15 students to visit their sister city of Inishiki, Japan, was cancelled by the host city due to school closures there.

Trips approved for May and July will be reviewed prior to the students’ departures.

Spring break staycations close to home
Spring break staycations close to home

–With files from Shelby Thom