Parents at Claremont secondary have to dig into their pockets a little deeper than their counterparts at other Saanich high schools when it comes to paying for dry grad events for Grade 12 students.
The Saanich School District (SD63) hasn’t, for the last dozen years, participated in the Liquor Distribution Branch’s Support Dry Grad Campaign. (Claremont is the only Saanich high school in SD63, all others are in the Greater Victoria School District.)
“It’s just a stupid thing. It makes me so mad,” said Cindy Nairn, a Claremont parent who has helped organize the school’s dry grad events for five years, and who is lobbying the school district to change its policy.
“It’s getting tough out there to get donations from people, everybody’s tightening their purses strings. Eventually what will happen is if we can’t get the money, dry grad programs will shut down.”
Since 2001, B.C. Liquor Stores provincewide have asked customers to donate $1 to the dry grad campaign when they purchase alcohol at the till. Money raised is given to that store’s local school board to allocate to their high schools’ dry grad programs.
But the Saanich School District has historically said it won’t accept the money.
“We currently have a policy on external funding through donations that have a guiding principle that says there won’t be any funding received from sellers of tobacco or alcohol,” said SD63 trustee Tim Dunford, chair of the district’s policy development committee.
Last week Dunford served a notice of motion to the board to remove that principle from district policies, to allow the LDB to donate to Saanich-based dry grad programs.
He stressed that the money does not come directly from the sale of alcohol, but from a separate donation made by customers of a store that sells alcohol.
“I, and some of the other trustees, see no harm in receiving these donations from the LDB. It seems to me that the argument can be made that this is not supporting liquor sales or supporting the sale of alcohol to minors,” Dunford said. “This is a good-faith gesture from the LDB promoting dry grad and promoting abstinence. It seems to me there’s a good argument, and we should seriously look at that.”
Of the three B.C. Liquor Stores within SD63’s catchment area – Broadmead Village, Trafalgar Square and Sidney – the Broadmead location is the only one that currently participates in the campaign. However, the donated money is given to the Greater Victoria School District, as Saanich refuses it.
During 2013, the Broadmead Village store collected $1,496 in donations.
“Generous people are opening their wallets and donating their money to a great cause, and yet (Claremont has) no access to that money,” Nairn said.
Of the province’s 60 school districts, Saanich is one of only five that doesn’t participate in the LDB campaign, and it is the largest and only non-rural district of the quintet. The others are in areas such as Arrow Lakes, Stikine and New Aiyansh.
Dunford says the school board will spend two months reviewing and researching the potential policy change, and a decision will be made at the Nov. 13 meeting.