Trump travel orders put Oak Bay students’ U.S. trips at risk

Monterey, Oak Bay schools affected by district review of American travel

Piet Langstraat

Piet Langstraat

Oak Bay High students head for the U.S. after a review of its planned trip to Disney World.

The 27-member track team’s two-year plan to head for Florida March 19 is a go after a review by the Greater Victoria School District, says head coach Mike Sheffer.

“The senior administration reviewed it and realized we’re pretty far along in our payments. Our trip has been approved to go,” Sheffer said.

The team heads for Disney World to train five days and attend a track meet at the Wide World of Sports.

“They’re very excited. We’re staying on the property and have a facility there where you can train and stuff,” Sheffer said. “They have six or seven sports running while we’re there.”

Travel restrictions in the U.S. triggered a review of all planned Greater Victoria School District student travel there. On Monday, the Board of Education supported the superintendent in reviewing all immediate school trips planned for the U.S. and to meet with staff, students and parents about the pending trips to determine whether or how they occur to minimize risks to all students, staff and chaperones.

The review comes in the wake of travel restrictions brought into place by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We believe it is prudent at this point to postpone future travel plans until we have a clear understanding of what’s going on,” said superintendent Piet Langstraat, adding here have been a number of issues involving people of Muslim faith being held up at the border, regardless of their countries of origin or whether they hold passports.

While no future trips will be planned to the United States, the district has already scheduled 10 U.S. trips involving 410 students, the earliest of those trips set to leave March 6.

“Those 10 field trips present a more complex issue for us, because plans have obviously been made, money has been put down on deposits, plane travel has been purchased,” said Langstraat, who will review all school trips planned for the U.S. and meet with staff, students and parents with a focus on minimizing any risks to students, staff and chaperones.

Oak Bay also has plans for Island Ukeleles to travel to Los Angeles, Calif. March 19 to 28 and 90 music students at Monterey Middle School are slated to head for Seattle, Wash. May 4 to 6.

The superintendent plans to consult parents and students to make determinations on immediate trips on a case-by-case basis.

Future trips early in the planning process, where funds have not yet been committed, will be encouraged to find alternate destinations in Canada and other countries where all students can travel without risk of denied entry based on faith or ethnicity.

“Our district is governed by values, and it is our values of tolerance, understanding and equity that must guide our decision-making,” said board chair Edith Loring-Kuhanga. “We are one learning community and no student should be deprived of opportunity based on their race, religion or ethnicity.”

– with files from Dan Ebenal/Saanich News