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October 30, 2009

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CUPE-sponsored field trip connects kids to their city hall, public library

CUPE 23 president Rick Kotar accepts gift from a Stride Elementary School pupil, as Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan looks on, during a school field trip to Burnaby City hall yesterday.CUPE 23 president Rick Kotar accepts gift from a Stride Elementary School pupil, as Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan looks on, during a school field trip to Burnaby City hall yesterday.BURNABY—A group of 25 underprivileged children from southeast Burnaby had one of their most enjoyable school days ever yesterday, thanks to a CUPE 23-sponsored field trip designed to raise awareness about the lack of affordable transit for educational outings.

The children, accompanied by a small group of CUPE 23 volunteers, school teachers and parents, were Grade Four and Five pupils from Stride Elementary, located in one of the lowest income areas of Burnaby. The CUPE 23-sponsored bus tour was aimed at encouraging the provincial government and Translink to look into finding ways to subsidize field trips, which are no longer provided by school boards.

The day began with a visit to Burnaby city hall where the children were introduced to Mayor Derek Corrigan and invited into council chambers where Corrigan spoke to them about how municipal councils work. CUPE 23 president Rick Kotar spoke to the kids about CUPE 23, what the local’s members do and how unions represent their members.

Corrigan speaks to Grade Four and Five pupils, and places the mayoral sash on ‘Acting Mayor’ Jacqueline Sheh.Corrigan speaks to Grade Four and Five pupils, and places the mayoral sash on ‘Acting Mayor’ Jacqueline Sheh.

The bus then took the group to Metrotown, where the children had lunch followed by story time at Metrotown Library. From there they visited a cinema to watch “Where the Wild Things Are” before being bused back to school, where their parents picked them up.

“The kids were more than enthused about the whole field trip,” said Kotar.

“They were definitely blown away by the experience at city hall: sitting in the council chambers, taking turns in the mayor’s chair and wearing his sash. The kids got a chance to find out how council operates, how the city functions, and the value of being able to spend time at a library. In sponsoring this event, we’re also very happy to have been able to demonstrate the importance of being able to attend public libraries as a crucial part of a child’s education.”

Kotar pointed out that a typical full-seated school bus, such as a Bluebird, costs $550 a day to rent. For a half-day trip, the cost could—and should—be subsidized.

“The fact that the schools cannot afford to hire a bus for these field trips is very unfortunate, and it’s our hope that both the provincial government and Translink will take a hard look at this situation and make the funds available so that kids can make going to a public library part of their curriculum,” said Kotar.

“This is really the responsibility of the provincial government and Translink, to bring back these types of events. It doesn’t have to come with lunch and a movie. A half-day trip to a library and back on a bus really isn’t that costly, and it’s well worth bringing back into what used to be part of regular school programs.”

Kotar added that a good alternative would be “Trip Ed” public transit passes proposed by CUPE 23. This yearly, $10 reusable pass would allow a class of children (K-12 in the Metro Region) with their adult supervisors to use public transit for educational trips, primarily in 'off peak' hours. For more information visit, Trip Ed.

“In my opinion, it’s a very good idea, and I would encourage Translink to strongly consider it as a possible option,” concluded Kotar.

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