School District staff are preparing a report on the outdoor education initiatives already in place within the district, like the community garden at Cedar Elementary, pictured here. File photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River School Board chooses to fund sick leave replacement over outdoor education

Sick leave costs could double this year as district asks sick staff to stay home

The Campbell River Board of Education is pumping the brakes on its exploration of new outdoor education opportunities.

During the Sept. 8 virtual board meeting, Trustee Daryl Hagen had put forward a motion to consider setting aside $250,000 of an estimated $2-million to come from the federal government’s Safe Return to Class fund to set up an outdoor education resource.

RELATED: Campbell River School District to explore more outdoor learning opportunities

But during the next virtual meeting on Sept. 29, Hagen reconsidered his motion after hearing a staff report delivered by Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Patrick.

According to the report, principals would prefer permanent outdoor structures, but safety and the possibility of loitering would need to be considered in choosing locations. Pop-up covers that could be easily moved were also supported by principals, as well as kits that could be used to support outdoor learning.

The Comox Valley School District is currently working with Muchalat Modular to come up with a proposal for pre-fabricated permanent structures with an estimated cost of $50,000 each.

In the report, Patrick notes that permanent outdoor structures require permits and approved drawings, as well as time to develop. Construction would be weather dependent and it could be late in the school year before the work is complete.

Patrick said the board should consider using the funds instead to cover sick-leave replacement costs.

“When we sat and we planned this, we had every good intention of proceeding with some of these requests from the board and some of these other initiatives,” he said. “I’m just kind of wondering with how short our TOC (teacher on call) lists were, we potentially could be doubling our sick replacement costs for this upcoming year and so it’ll have a pretty big impact.”

Hagen said that his intention with the motion was to find a way to decompress the classroom. He said that while he was open to withdrawing the motion, he did want the board to continue exploring outdoor education opportunities.

“Learning outdoors in our environment where we have the ocean, the mountains and everything around us here and the fact that we’re talking about global warming, it would bring us all closer to the land,” he said. “If we’re unprepared to move forward on this at this time, that’s fine. But I think we should give it really careful consideration that all our decisions are not around money.”

RELATED: 59% of B.C. teachers say COVID-19 safety measures in schools are inadequate: BCTF poll

Trustee Joyce McMann said that while the idea of spending money on outdoor structures might be premature, she didn’t want to see the spark lit from Hagen’s initial motion get extinguished.

“The idea of nature-based education is very complex. It needs some time to chew on it to see how we want to invent those kind of principles or kind of visions within our strategic plan,” she said. “I would like to see those conversations start to percolate now. Rather than putting them off to another time. We may not find actions that we want to take immediately, but we need the ideas to start now.”

Superintendent Jeremy Morrow offered to have staff present a report to the board on some of the outdoor education opportunities currently taking place in the district like community gardens, forest schools and high school outdoor education electives.

“I think it would be exciting for the board to hear about some of those initiatives,” he said.

Board Chair Richard Franklin agreed, bringing up a bit of the district’s history when it comes to funding. He recalled a time when the district funded swimming lessons for all children in Grade 5. But in the early days of financial restraint, he said, it was the first to go.

RELATED: Campbell River classrooms remain COVID-free: school district

“We’re surrounded by water, but our kids don’t get swimming lessons,” he said. “I would like to see an education system that really capitalizes on outdoor education and the wonderful natural environment that we have here.”

At the same time, Franklin acknowledged that there will be additional costs related to the pandemic this year and the board should support the senior management team in making financial decisions to get the district over the “COVID hump.”

“I’m really thinking that there will be additional costs to the board when people stay home and they’re sick,” he said. “But this year of all years, we need people to stay home when they’re sick.”

The motion was withdrawn and a staff report on current district outdoor education initiatives is forthcoming.


@marissatiel
marissa.tiel@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Campbell River School District 72CoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for parts of Vancouver Island for Thursday and Friday.(File photo)
Snowfall expected in parts of Vancouver Island

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for north, east and inland Vancouver Island this week

RCMP are looking for information on the identity of these two individuals, pictured at the Fisherman’s Wharf Dock on Oct. 16, 2020 at approximately 1:30 a.m. Photos supplied by Campbell River RCMP.
RCMP looking for alleged ‘dock pirates’

Thefts, lines cut from Fisherman’s Wharf on Oct. 6.

The Strathcona Regional District has applied again for funding for RE-CREATE project. File photo
Second round of grant funding ‘last chance hotel’ for Strathcona Gardens reno — Commissioner

Commission thinks streamlined application, lower funding ask gives better shot at success

Brighter Day, a youth-led initiative based out of Volunteer Campbell River, is looking to connect seniors and youth with a new pen pal program to help make everyone more connected during this socially-distanced time. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
New pen-pal program looks to connect seniors and youth in Campbell River

Hope is to ‘make both parties feel less isolated through these challenging times’

As part of NSG, the Vancouver Foundation recently awarded a grant to an Abbotsford resident to organize a socially distanced driveway dinner party for neighbours to get to know each other. Grant applications for such projects can be made with the Campbell River Community Foundation before Oct.26, by residents of Sayward, Quadra and Campbell River. (Neighbourhood Small Grant photo)
Campbell River Community Foundation announces its first Neighbourhood Small Grants program

Grants up to $500 available for projects that comply with physical distancing guidelines from Campbell River, Sayward, Quadra among others

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Most Read