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Cancelled school trips cause frustration

By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff

A targeted marketing campaign that began back in November may be what saved Chicopee Tubing Park from seeing barren hills this winter, as school trips across the province are cancelled.

General manager Bob Harris said he knew labour unrest in schools could continue, and so he began marketing more aggressively to Catholic and French school boards, where teachers had already signed contracts, and to private schools.

“We thought, ‘Let’s reconfigure ourselves and adjust to go after the solid market,’” he said.

Last week, leaders of teachers’ unions had a private meeting with Kathleen Wynne, who is slated to be officially sworn in as premier on Monday. But teachers have not returned to providing extracurricular activities.

That boycott applies to sports and clubs before and after school, but may also affect class trips that take place during regular school hours, to places such as Chicopee Tube Park and TheMuseum.

“Right now it’s varied in different schools in terms of what trips are and aren’t running,” said Mark Schinkel, executive superintendent at the Waterloo Region District School Board.

There’s no uniformity between schools, but curriculum-related trips are more likely to go ahead as planned, while some others have been cancelled, he said.

Superintendents are aware of concerns from parents, but have not received an inordinate number of complaints.

“Certainly, there’s frustration at the school level that’s being expressed,” Schinkel said.

Harris would not say which school boards or schools have cancelled trips to the tubing park. Some that had booked early in the fall cancelled, while others stuck to their commitment.

The mild weather also took a bite out of the action, with the park not opening until Dec. 29. But with sophisticated snow-making equipment and cold weather, there’s now substantial coverage on the hills.

“I’m hoping it’s a wash in the end,” Harris said. “I’ve still got some space available before the March Break.”

TheMuseum in downtown Kitchener is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays, which are reserved for school groups only. Now, many of those days have seen few or no groups, said CEO David Marskell.

“It’s definitely affecting us in a negative way,” he said.

“The bottom line is, we’ve had schools cancel because of the political situation.”

Marskell said Catholic schools and groups of home-schooled children are still attending, but it’s not enough to fill all the time slots.

Normally, TheMuseum gets seven to 10 inquiries a week from teachers wanting to bring in classes. Now, that’s down to one or two.

Class trips bring in $5.50 to $7 per student and the loss of them could add up to a substantial financial hit for TheMuseum, which operates on a budget with little wiggle room. The popular Medieval Week, which matches up with the Grade 4 curriculum, is scheduled to go ahead in April.

“It’s tracking toward selling out as usual,” Marskell said. “But if it doesn’t, in our fragile little state, it would hurt.”

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