Student camping trip called off over school board’s strict new safety requirements

The quintessential Canadian summer experience — swimming and canoeing at camp — has been deemed too dangerous for a group of Toronto teens.

The graduating class of an inner-city middle school will have to settle for a day of sightseeing at Niagara Falls, Ont., after their three-day camping trip to celebrate the end of their time together was axed because of concerns about their safety.

The Grade 8 students from Amesbury Middle School were to spend June 9-11 at Camp Walden in Bancroft, Ont., where they would have the opportunity to experience classic camping activities such as swimming and canoeing.

But the excursion was cancelled this week when Steven Bannerman, the school’s principal, realized he did not have enough time to fulfill new safety requirements imposed by the Toronto District School Board.

Mr. Bannerman said he was asked by Superintendent Glenford Duffus about two weeks before the trip to provide written documentation, This would show the students had completed a swimming test, and canoes and kayaks at the camp were fit to use (i.e., they were in good shape, stocked with first-aid kits, and so on).

Camp Walden/VimeoCamp Walden/VimeoVideo screen shot from Camp Walden in Brancroft, Ontario.

But the principal said the school board mandates such forms are filled out and collected two weeks before any trip.

“I kind of ran out of time,” he said.

Students from Amesbury have gone to Camp Walden for their graduation trip about five times in the last 10 years. Mr. Bannerman said written safety documentation had never been needed and verbal confirmation was always sufficient.

Ryan Bird, a TSDB spokesman, said the documents were needed to comply with provincial guidelines.

He admitted a “miscommunication” had led to the school being given little time to comply.

“In previous years they had gotten verbal confirmation, but this year the board’s doing its due diligence to get proper documentation prior to the trip,” Mr. Bird said.

He added the problem over safety regulations was only part of the reason the trip was cancelled. Few students had expressed interest in going.

“Only about 30% of students had shown interest through their initial deposits. The trip was questionable at that point,” Mr. Bird said.

FilesFilesNew safety requirements imposed by the Toronto District School Board make it harder for students to do activities like canoeing on school trips.

Three days at Camp Walden would have cost $150 a student, compared with $60 for the day in Niagara Falls.

Mr. Bannerman said the school hopes to arrange a camping trip next year for Grade 8s and will plan earlier to meet the required safety standards.

The principal said some students from this year’s graduating class are disappointed.

“There are those who are obviously going to be missing the camp experience,” he said.

“There are others that are curious about the safety aspect of it and need an explanation of why something is considered safe or unsafe and why we have to look at it.”

National Post
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