– School field trips on the decline

ED. Thanks to the Liberals and mismanagement at Translink…

Burnaby News Leader

The once ubiquitous school field trip has become an endangered species due to budget cuts and the challenge of finding transportation.

A simple visit to the Metrotown library branch wasn’t in the cards for Donna Hull’s Grade 7 class at Cascade Heights elementary until she found out TransLink was offering free transit to students as part of Walk to School Week.

Otherwise, chartering a bus is prohibitively expensive for most outings, at $300 to $400 per trip. And transit fare, at $3.50 per student, is too much to ask for many families.

The only other alternative these days is for parents to drive kids. But with most parents working, that’s often difficult to arrange, and often results in whole trips being cancelled because parents have to back out at the last minute.

“It’s really sad because you spend all that time organizing a field trip, the kids get excited and you’re counting on parent drivers.”

Field trips will take another hit now that the provincial government has cut funding to parent advisory committees by 50 per cent—money often used to subsidize outings.

A group of community advocates, from teachers and librarians to parents and the David Suzuki Foundation, are lobbying TransLink to create a TripEd pass (www.TripEd.info). The pass would give school classes unlimited transit use for field trips for an annual fee, such as $10 a class, a figure that’s really just a base to start negotiations, said Schula Leonard, who’s involved in the campaign.

As a children’s librarian at the Metrotown branch for 21 years, Leonard has seen school visits drop significantly in recent years.

Such trips would happen in off-peak hours and would help raise children to become transit users, she said.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said on some routes, buses are crowded even in off-peak hours, creating logistical issues to accommodate dozens of schoolkids.

And while the TripEd “concept is good,” the main problem is money. TransLink is currently drawing down its reserves to keep existing services going and can’t afford to subsidize more, Hardie said.

TransLink will have a closer look at the proposal in coming months.

Meanwhile, the kids had a great time on the Metrotown library trip. It might not seem an exotic destination, but only about four of Hull’s students said they go regularly.

“I heard one student say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was a library here.’

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