Tuesday September 26, 2023 | COLWOOD, BC [ See previous article (Sept 25) about the proposed trip ] [Updated September 28, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Yesterday it was reported that four Grade 11 students in Ukraine will make their way to the tranquility of south Vancouver Island next spring for a 3-week exchange visit within Sooke School District 62 (SD62).
It is being proposed that in spring 2024, the students will be hosted by the Sooke School District (SD62) and the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre for a three-week period, including a two-week immersion program at Edward Milne Community School (EMCS).
Motion tabled to the October meeting:
At tonight’s SD62 board meeting that process was put on hold after concerns were raised by four trustees: Cendra Beaton, Ebony Logins (vice-chair), Trudy Spiller, and Allison Watson. The motion to approve the exchange program was tabled so that more information can come forward at the October board meeting; staff will be expected to find out more information from the Langford Ukraine group organizers.
Superintendent Scott Stinson pointed out that a fairly timely decision would be required in order for the Ukrainian students to arrange for things like travel visas and making travel arrangements. As if the project might be going ahead either way, Stinson suggested that the students would ‘have to find another school district’ in Canada to exchange with, if SD62 declined to participate.
This is not the first time that these four new SD62 trustees (all but Watson were first-time elected in October 2022) have expressed concerns about the ‘global exchange’ idea that was first proposed by former SD62 board chair Ravi Parmar [see December 2022 article]. But now almost a year later, these increasingly seasoned trustees are really finding their oats; they attacked tonight’s motion with an elegant swarm of questions.
SD62 Board Chair Amanda Dowhy is also new to the board as of the 2022 election; she maintained a relatively neutral position in this debate, possibly now feeling compromised given her very public announcement of the project yesterday in a media event at City of Colwood municipal hall.
Legal and financial concerns:
Logins wanted to know what is ‘in kind’, particularly if that includes staff time. She wanted to know the amount that would be paid toward the home-stay of the four students when in East Sooke (to attend two weeks of school at EMCS high school in Sooke).
Logins also inquired as to the degree of legal responsibility that the board would be taking on for these students. Apparently the ‘guardianship’ of the four students would be with former SD62 trustee Bob Beckett who is heading up the humanitarian group project which is aiming to bring students here from Ukraine. Logins pointed out that the project group is not a formal entity.
Logins also pointed out that when former SD62 board chair Ravi Parmar brought the idea of the student exchange forward last year that he said there would be “no financial implications”. Now there is a $2,000 request before the board from Beckett’s informal group.
Superintendent Stinson said there would be the same level of risk as any board-sanctioned event. Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull said the funding request of $2,000 was “in line with other projects supported by the board”.
There is currently a GoFundMe fundraising campaign underway to raise $50,000 for the overall third visit of Beckett’s project group to Ukraine (date and city locations not being announced for security reasons).
Last night it was mentioned there would be an ‘interpreter’, but today a spokesperson for Beckett’s project said that no translator is required (confirmed by SD62).
Trustee Watson wanted more details about how the four students were being selected, expressing concern that there is not as much equity as might be hoped for.
Watson approached the exchange project idea through what she called an “equity lens”. What about students visiting from other war-torn or distressed areas, such as Afghanistan, she asked. “Why are we supporting a certain country (one over another)?” asked Watson.
Stinson said each of the four municipalities (with school district responsibilities) in Ukraine would be selecting one student to represent their district, not dissimilar to if SD62’s three families of schools were to each choose one representative.
Logins further pointed out that SD62 has a sister-city arrangement with students in Japan. “Where is our agreement with them?”
Trustee Beaton brought up a particularly heavy-duty point — that the students arriving here from Ukraine might have war-related trauma responses while they’re here, and who would deal with that? Implied in that question is that just because there is a positive view of life in this region by members of SD62, perhaps the shock of the differential in life experiences might be traumatizing for students who suddenly find themselves in a different (and arguably better/safer) reality — after which they would be returning home to a war zone.
Would SD62 or the Beckett Ukraine group be planning for the students’ well being emotionally as well as socially, Beaton asked. Would the responsibility for handling the trauma responses fall on “our shoulders, or this group”, asked Beaton.
Trustee Spiller pitched in that she had “mixed feelings” when Parmar introduced the program last year, “because of the war”, saying “I need more information before I can feel good about making a decision”.
Stinson pointed out that the Ukraine project group is supported by GlobalMedic which presumably has processes in place to deal with these concerns. Chair Dowhy pointed out that one of the Ukrainian surgeons who has visited here in Greater Victoria has family presently living in Victoria — “his wife and children have been living here for about a year”, she said, presumably implying they could be of support.
Beaton further asked if SD62 students involved in the exchange would be prepared for encountering a ‘deep trauma’ response in the visiting Ukrainian students.
One of the three weeks of the exchange would see students attending at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Logins wanted to know who would be physically with the students at Bamfield.
Stinson said the program there provides meals, supervision, and the presence of an interpreter who would be travelling with the group (but Island Social Trends learned the following day that there is no interpreter travelling with the group).
The proposed project is that in spring 2024, the students will be hosted by the Sooke School District (SD62) and the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre for three weeks: for a two-week immersion program at Edward Milne Community School (EMCS) and one week at Bamfield.
During the two weeks with SD62, the students would be staying at a property in East Sooke called Eagle Ridge, and will be transported by SD62 school buses to attend classes at EMCS in nearby Sooke.
At this time, the Beckett Ukraine project group hopes to raise an additional $50,000 for the purchase of additional supplies. The project was promoted yesterday in a media event at Colwood city hall, with remarks by Beckett and Dowhy.
See September 25, 2023 article by Island Social Trends, with more details about the proposed Ukraine student exchange.
===== RELATED ARTICLES by ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
- SD62 welcoming four more Ukrainian students in spring 2024 (September 25, 2023)
- Thin line between school district & Langford Ukraine mission (February 14, 2023)
- SD62 board has not approved student exchange with Ukraine (January 13, 2023)
- SD62 sends Ukraine project idea to committee (December 14, 2022)
- Langford mayor heading to Ukraine with GlobalMedic team (June 8, 2022)
- Langford achieves $50,000 fundraising goal for Ukraine (May 6, 2022)
- Support for Ukraine in Langford (April 5, 2022)
- Canadians offering support for Ukraine (February 26, 2022)
- Streamline and speed up handling of Ukraine refugees says NDP (February 25, 2022)
- Ukraine situation reminds Canadians about freedom (January 27, 2022)
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Covering news of the west shore region since 2008. Daily news posts onine at IslandSocialTrends.ca since mid-2020. Island Social Trends is independent journalism — advertising and subscribers welcome. This publication evolved from a series of print publications: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020) — print editions archived at the Sooke Region Museum.
Founder, Editor and Publisher of that full series of regional news publications is Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR.
This year Mary P Brooke was nominated for a Jack Webster Foundation award fto a woman who contributes to her community through journalism.
Ms Brooke now reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery. Her home-based publishing business is located in Langford, BC.
In 2022, Mary Brooke ran for school trustee in SD62 (Belmont Zone – Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Highlands).