An annual class trip at École Pauline Johnson school is at the centre of debate among local parents. North Shore News Files

Original Published on Oct 13, 2022 at 11:51

West Vancouver annual French immersion school trip cost big jump over previous years

By Mina Kerr-Lazenby, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

More than two dozen parents are calling on a West Vancouver elementary school to decrease the price of, or at least offer some transparency on, a price-hiked class trip. 

French immersion school École Pauline Johnson is requesting parents of Grade 7 students fork out $4,200 for the school’s annual trip to Québec, more than a third higher than the cost of the trip in previous years. 

The educational trip, run by tour company Brightspark, is a six-day optional excursion with hotels, meals and transportation included. The finer details remain unknown, and parents say their attempts to gain a better understanding of the costs have been fruitless. 

Azmairnin Jadavji, a parent of an École Pauline Johnson pupil and former North Vancouver member of Parliament candidate, said 29 families have called the school board, to be met with “zero response.” 

“Forty per cent of students are recruited from North Vancouver, and then treated as second-class citizens. The principal has ignored requests to consider comparable trips taken by other schools for under $3,000,” he said, adding that the planned trip is “nudging out” middle-class families.

After conducting their own research, disgruntled parents found other schools in the area are offering similar class trips for less than $3,000. 

One parent, who has requested anonymity for fear of backlash from the school, said a Zoom meeting had been planned for teachers and parents to shed light on the details, but it only left those in attendance with more questions than answers. 

“It was just a marketing pitch for Brightspark,” said the woman, whose son is a Grade 7 pupil. “There was no clarity about what it is that we’re paying extra for. People in the chat kept raising their hand and asking, ‘Can you please break down the costs?’ I myself asked twice, and they didn’t even acknowledge it.”

Tara Zielinski, principal of École Pauline Johnson, said the school has gone to “great lengths” to offer the traditional trip to Quebec. 

“As you know, with most everything, the prices for things such as travel, accommodations, food, busing, and insurance have increased, along with the new realities of COVID-19 and ensuring extra adult supervision in case a child becomes ill,” she said.  

“As in the past, for families who choose not to go on the trip, their child is very welcome at school.”

Jadavji and other parents interviewed touched on how disappointed their children were to not be embarking on the trip, an annual event that is often the highlight of French immersion programs.

“They are saying that it isn’t a mandatory trip and that it is optional, but when you’re looking at the whole seventh grade, and one half of the class can go and the other can’t, it has a psychological impact on the kids,” said a father of one student, who wished to remain anonymous. 

“It isn’t inclusive, because it is only the elite who are the ones that can pay, and that’s not something we want to have at a public school.”

With little acknowledgment from both Pauline Johnson and Brightspark, who have been contacted for comment, the parents are taking matters into their own hands by setting up a separate trip that will run alongside that of the school, for a fraction of the price. 

This item reprinted with permission from   North Shore News   North Vancouver, British Columbia

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