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ATLAS changes reflect WorkSafeBC requirements: SD8 superintendent

Students from L.V. Rogers Secondary school recently questioned the district’s position about changing the location of the ATLAS avalanche training, claiming removing backcountry training could potentially put lives in danger.

Superintendent Trish Smillie says students enrolled in wilderness education training will still receive quality education, but changes made to the curriculum were necessary to operate within WorkSafeBC standards.

“This year there was a change to trip locations after learning we were operating outside WorkSafeBC requirements for employees in avalanche terrain,” Trish Smillie says. “We worked carefully with our staff to make these changes.”

She says outdoor training for avalanche survival will not be impacted by the change. They are just trying to remove the unpredictability factor. 

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“Outdoor programs are still allowed to exist in the backcountry, just not where there is a risk of avalanche,” she says. “The same training is continuing, and students will still receive accreditation for participating in the program.”

Smillie says there were pieces missing in the students’ presentation from what is actually happening. 

“There was some misinformation,” she says. “The ATLAS program will continue to offer ASP1, companion rescue skills, and managing avalanche terrain courses to students.

“Within those courses there is a required terrain to be able to assess in those courses. We work directly with WorkSafeBC and receive the appropriate communication to move forward with these changes.”

Smillie says the other misconception is the style of terrain which was set aside by Whitewater for students to develop their skills.

“People thought courses were going to be held on groomed runs,” she says. “I am very pleased that Whitewater Ski Resort was able to partner with us to provide a piece of terrain strictly for educational purposes.”

The district is still offering outdoor wilderness courses in winter camping, snow shelter construction and snow travel in safe areas of the backcountry.

Students brought forward a petition to the school board, on December 13, saying changing environments for the ATLAS program to a safer location would give people a false sense of confidence; therefore, putting them at greater risk.

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