North Van school district to spend up to $100k on free menstrual products

The North Vancouver School District will spend up to $100,000 this year to provide free menstrual products to students, following an order last year by the provincial government.

Typically that involves providing products for students at intermediate and high school grades, school trustees were advised by staff at a recent board meeting.

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The ongoing cost is expected to be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 per year, said secretary treasurer Georgia Allison.

Costs are higher this year because the school district will also pay for dispensers to be installed in school washrooms. Allison said staff tested the dispensers and chose a model they felt would be more tamper-proof.

School board chair Christie Sacré commented that vandalism to the dispensers is probably the reason why the machines were removed from washrooms to begin with.

Last year, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that under a ministerial order, all B.C. public schools will be required to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of 2019.

The move followed a decision of the New Westminster board of education last February to install free tampon and menstrual pad dispensers in school washrooms.

Local school trustee Cyndi Gerlach praised the decision at the time, saying the move will help relieve anxiety for girls, and provide a way for them to deal with normal bodily functions in private, without having to go to the school office or counsellor’s office to ask for products.

“I’m just really, really pleased that it’s a topic we’re discussing in public. It’s about time,” said Gerlach.

But one student who spoke to the North Shore News recently said that they had yet to actually be put in place in all local schools.

The high school student, who asked that her name not be used, said she recently needed to access menstrual products at school but found none in the washroom.

Instead she had to walk to the other end of the school and rummage in an office cupboard, she said.

In the past there has been a sign on one of the empty old dispensers directing girls to ask a particular teacher for supplies if needed, she said. “You literally have to interrupt a class,” she said, adding most girls wouldn’t want to do that.

The student said she was surprised to find the new measures weren’t in place.

“It was supposed to be in effect since the end of 2019.”

School district spokeswoman Deneka Michaud said the school district is currently providing supplies in all schools. She added that menstrual products have not been placed in every washroom, but signs are being put up directing students to specific washrooms where they can obtain menstrual products if needed.

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