Earlier this month, the U.S. announced new travel restrictions at its borders, including the U.S./Canada border. As you may know, the Executive Order that was to put these restrictions in place has been suspended again pending the outcome of a number of court challenges. While the court challenges have stopped the implementation of the Executive Order, there continues to be uncertainty surrounding these new restrictions — specifically with regards to who may be impacted and when. With this in mind, the Toronto District School Board is now faced with a difficult choice.
We can allow school trips to the U.S. to continue assuming that every student is able to cross the border — as we believe is likely the case based on all the information we have available to us. Or, we can cancel these trips, knowing that students who have worked hard to reach international competitions and/or planned and fundraised for months in anticipation would miss out on these opportunities and, in some cases, hundreds of dollars in non-refundable payments would be lost.
After much consultation and thought, and because at this time, no Executive Order is in place, we have reached the decision that school trips to the U.S. that have already been approved — 24 trips involving approximately 800 students as well as approximately 100 students attending the DECA competition — will be allowed to proceed to ensure that students do not miss out on these opportunities. At the same time, no student or staff trips to the U.S. will be booked until further notice. While already-approved trips are proceeding at this time, it’s important to note that should the Executive Order be fully implemented, resulting in any of our students being excluded from trips across the U.S. border, then the Board has asked me to cancel already-approved trips to the U.S. for the remainder of this school year. In this event, the Board would reimburse students, parents and staff any incurred costs not covered by insurance.
We do not make this decision lightly, but given the uncertainty of these new travel restrictions and when they may come into effect, if at all, we strongly believe that our students should not be placed into these situations of potentially being turned away at the border. The TDSB remains committed to ensuring that fairness, equity, and inclusion are essential principles of our school system and are integrated into all our policies, programs, operations, and practices, including school trips.
For the trips that will be continuing — should students with the appropriate documentation be denied entry to the U.S. for no legitimate reason, the entire trip will return to Toronto and will not proceed.
It is my hope that our students, staff and parents will understand and support this difficult decision. We feel it strikes a balance between our equity and inclusion commitments as a school board, while not cancelling already-approved trips for which a financial loss would be incurred.
Rest assured, we will continue to monitor this situation very closely and should we receive additional information or clarification with regards to what students could expect at the U.S. border, we may revisit these decisions. However, based on all the information we currently have available to us, we feel this is the right action to take at this time.
Board Decision on Student Educational Travel to the United States
Whereas, the Board remains committed to ensuring that fairness, equity and inclusion are essential principles of our school system and are integrated into all Board policies, programs, operations and practices, including school trips;
Therefore be it resolved:
(a) That no new trips for staff and students to the United States be approved at this time;
(b) That while previously-approved school trips are proceeding at this time, should an executive order be fully implemented that could result in any TDSB students or staff being excluded from trips across the United States border, the Director be permitted to cancel already booked trips to the US for the remainder of the school year;
(c) That, in this event, the Board would reimburse students, parents and staff where insurance will not cover the cost;
(d) That the Director monitor the situation and provide further updates at a future meeting.