DiModica: ‘Nightmare’ scenario for school field trips

DiModica: ‘Nightmare’ scenario for school field trips

CUMBERLAND – Local schools are about out of options when it comes to dealing with new state guidance prohibiting charging students for field trips, putting those trips for the 2019-2020 school year in grave jeopardy.

School Committee Chairman Paul DiModica said the School Committee was set to discuss this “serious subject” at a meeting last Thursday, July 11, but had to postpone it to July 18, after only three members showed up, meaning the board lacked the required quorum of four members.

It now appears that most field trips won’t be able to happen next school year, DiModica said.

“This is a nightmare, especially for the high school,” he told The Valley Breeze.

This is a statewide situation where the General Assembly will likely have to get involved, he said.

In particular danger of being axed are the field trips parents have traditionally paid for, including those to Washington, D.C., Quebec, Europe and Disney, said DiModica. The schools likely will no longer be able to charge band students to go to Ohio for competitions.

School officials think they may have found a way to keep many elementary trips, since PTO groups normally pay for all of the ones except to Washington and Quebec. The tentative idea is to have a PTO donate money to the School Department for the trip, and then have the School Department run the trip with busing and insurance. If 4th-graders go to the zoo, the PTO would normally pay for that.

“We’re trying to work through all the logistics to make it work,” he said. “We can’t ask parents to pay for their child to go on a field trip.”

DiModica estimated that the total cost if the district were to pick up the cost of all field trips is $1 million or more, an amount that simply couldn’t be covered. This is far more impactful at the high school than at the middle and elementary school level.

DiModica wasn’t sure when the school board would be able to reschedule last week’s meeting. He and members Steve Hess and Mark Fiorillo showed up, while Heidi Waters, Karen Freedman and Jennifer Bernardo were on vacation. Member Ray Salvatore was also absent.

School officials’ interpretation of departed Education Commissioner Ken Wagner’s written guidance prohibiting districts from charging money for school-sponsored trips is that children would be marked absent and teachers would have to take a sick or personal day if the trip is not sponsored and paid for by the schools.

As an example of how expensive a trip can get, if 15 students go on a trip to Washington, D.C., at $800 apiece, the cost would reach $12,000. Imagine if 10 times that many students want to go on a trip somewhere more expensive, he said.

After numerous discussions with state education officials, it’s become clear that school officials can’t even ask students for $10 to go to the Museum of Science, DiModica said.

The chairman said school officials have already spoken to the tour operator for a trip that had been planned to Quebec in October. It appears that money will be refunded.

Not having field trips takes away from the overall school experience and hurts young people, said DiModica.

Comments

It should be clear that you are stating that the school cannot charge for school sponsored trips. Why don't we find an alternative solution. There must be plenty of travel agencies that can schedule and book the trips. As far as teacher chaperones, well there could always be a stipend paid by town to teacher chaperones who take unpaid days for missed work. The cost for chaperones who take a teachers unpaid day would be offset so there would be no additional cost to town. There are probably multiple solutions to the problem that costs no money if we want to find one.

Where are the creative solutions? Why just give up without presenting the options?

DwyerP, how does booking with a travel agent fix the problem? How do the trips get paid for?