As a former school principal, School District 57 superintendent Brian Pepper has had his share of flag-raising experiences.
But until this year, the school board has never had a formal policy that outlines flag protocol for our schools. Now that trustees have approved a draft policy, rules to govern care and display of flags are now being finalized at the board level.
When and if that policy is finally adopted, all district schools will be required to display a Canadian flag in good, clean condition on poles, in accordance with federal, provincial, and education ministry protocols and regulations. Each school will also feature the British Columbia flag, either on a pole or in the school, attached to a wall or hung from a beam.
"This has been on the books for some time for the policy and governance committee," said Pepper.
Pepper said all district schools already have Canadian flags already on display attached to poles. Twelve of the schools do not have poles equipped with lanyards and pulleys, so there's no way for school staff to raise and lower the flags without the use of a bucket truck. The cost to replace each of those poles is between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the size.
"At one time, all poles were static, they didn't have a lanyards on them that allowed you to raise and lower them easily and we've been replacing them slowly," said Pepper.
"The maintenance department will put flagpoles on their annual facility grant and it's usually done when there's already other work being done at that school."
The policy also outlines procedures for flying flags at half-staff, such as in the case of the death of a royal subject, prominent political leader, or member of the school community or a tragic event. That period of observance will begin on the day of notice and will continue until sunset on the day of the funeral. Only schools which have poles with lanyards are required to lower flags to half-staff.
Flags are usually replaced ever year or 1 1/2 years. The draft policy dictates that worn or faded flags must be destroyed, usually by burning.
Pepper says schools are seeing a resurgence in patriotism and there seems to be more evidence of a reconnection of school children to the Canadian flag. Part of the reason for that swelling of pride, Pepper theorizes, is the country's military involvement in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Libya, as well as the nation's prominence in sporting competitions like the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"We've lost people in town through military conflicts and that brings sadness and pride in the sacrifice that's been given, and that brings people together to rally around family and their country," said Pepper. "There's more opportunity to travel and when you travel you realize what a fortunate place we live in.
"I know lots of people who were at venues or at downtown location connected with the Olympics in Vancouver and they speak of crowds breaking out in the singing of O Canada. I think there is that awareness. You seem to hear more about the various kinds of international tournaments where you hadn't before, a benefit of social media and the media in general. People pay attention to that and it boosts national pride."