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Many school boards across country in dark over Afghan commemoration

OTTAWA - Officials at many school boards across the country are scratching their heads about what's expected of them during next week's national commemoration of sacrifices in the Afghan war.

Provincial education departments were asked by the Harper government to have schools mark the May 9 event but left details up to individual jurisdictions.

Many educators are trying to piece together an event, as is the Royal Canadian Legion which is scrambling to organize activities out of its 1,450 branches.

Classrooms been asked to observe two minutes of silence at 1:30 p.m. ET, but some boards, such as the Toronto District School Board, say they are still awaiting direction.

Spokesman Ryan Bird says given that it is a new commemoration, the board — the largest in the country — is reviewing how it can best mark the day, and no decisions have been made.

In Halifax, board spokesman Doug Hadley says principals have yet to be notified about the event, but will be invited to observe the moment of silence.

A spokesman for the Winnipeg School Division said they have not received any notice or direction.

There was confusion among some boards about whether the Afghan observance will be an annual event. Other groups are wondering what sort of programs they can run to educate students about the 12-year conflict.

The Prime Minister's Office made it clear Monday that the May 9 act of reflection will be a one-time occurrence and that Nov. 11 will remain as the annual day of war remembrance.

At least one board, in western New Brunswick, plans to go all out with an elementary school planting a tree. Others will encourage students to write poems. A high school will invite a soldier to speak.

Some of the region's 75 schools are located near CFB Gagetown, N.B., southeast of Fredericton, and the district superintendent said many didn't wait for direction before they started planning.

"We're certainly proud and as someone who grew up in the Town of Oromocto (near Gagetown), we have respect for the commitment soldiers made," said David McTimoney, of the Anglophone West School District. "It was a difficult decade."

It is also unclear what municipalities outside of Ottawa are doing — if anything — to mark the occasion.

In London, Ont., the city is planning an event at the local cenotaph to coincide with the national ceremony on Parliament Hill.

No national advertising campaign is planned to raise awareness out the day outside of Ottawa, the prime minister's communication's director said earlier this week.

In Ottawa, there will be a parade, two military fly-pasts and a service in the Senate involving the families of some of the 158 soldiers who died during the mission.

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