SD 61 remains stalled on Wi-Fi

Teachers’ job action slows debate on wireless safety

No elementary schools within the Greater Victoria School District had wireless Internet installed over the last year, and none will, until school trustees give Wi-Fi the green light.

The school board’s decision on whether or not to lift a year-old moratorium on installing wireless Internet in schools hinges on the findings from the district’s committee on Wi-Fi, a group comprised of teachers and administrators, as well as members from the Allied Specialists Association and the Principals’ Association.

The committee met with concerned parents and sought input from such authorities as the World Health Organization, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Industry Canada four times since formation in early 2011.

“There were groups of people who brought forward information that you’ve probably seen before … it came from all walks of life,” said Patrick Duncan, Greater Victoria School District associate superintendent and chair of the committee. “I haven’t heard of any further outcry from parents. There is one group who has continued to bring forward presentations and I’m sure they will continue to ensure that their voice is heard.”

The committee was slated to present recommendations on Wi-Fi to the board on June 20. The retirement of previous committee chair, former district secretary-treasurer George Ambeault and the teacher job action – which has teachers currently abstaining from all voluntary extracurricular activities, including participation on the committee – has put the report on hold indefinitely.

The board will be writing a letter inviting the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association to participate to get the committee moving forward again, board of education chair Peg Orcherton confirmed.

Until then, the only elementary school in SD 61 with wireless Internet remains George Jay. Every high school and middle school within the district already had Wi-Fi before the moratorium was implemented.

“The board made a decision ultimately based on the information provided, and we continue to get more information all of the time,” Orcherton said, noting that the information continues to come in on both sides of the Wi-Fi argument.

She would not speculate on any potential outcomes of the committee, which was struck in response to health concerns brought forward by parents.

“Schools are a microcosm of the broader community and there are differences of opinion as to the risks of Wi-Fi,” Orcherton said.

“There are people who feel there aren’t risks and there are obviously people who feel there are risks that we should be minimizing, particularly with young brains.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

 

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