Citing concerns about taking time away from the classroom, the Donegal School Board has decided to enforce a long-existing but previously unenforced policy to limit field trips to one per year.
During the public comment portion of the school board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 7, three mothers of fourth grade students asked the board to lift the one field trip per year rule or rename a farm trip so that it is not considered to be a field trip.
The fourth grade field trip has been taken at the state Capitol each year — but this year, fourth grade teachers voted to take the students to a farm.
Mothers who have spoken at recent meetings had voiced concern about the students not being able to experience a trip to the state capitol.
The one field trip rule has been on the books for many years, but it has not been enforced until this school year, under new Superintendent J. Michael Lausch.
“I propose that the new policy, if you will, could state that students are permitted one field trip per grade, but additional community-sponsored events may be permitted, provided that appropriate nursing coverage is available, because I know that was a sticking point,” said Ann Kritzer, mother of a fourth grade student.
Mother Jessica Good gave the board several ideas for names to call the farm trip, instead of a field trip.
And mother Beth Karpel questioned the board about whether or not nurse staffing on trips is an issue that would limit students to one field trip per year.
“If we change the policy where we allow – whatever you call it. You call it an ‘educational opportunity’ – then every grade is going to want that ‘educational opportunity,’” Board President Oliver Overlander III said after public comment.
“Now, our administrators are held to the high standard of testing, testing. I’m not saying that’s right, but that’s what our state keeps putting on us. I’m just really concerned that if we open the door or change the policy, and have two field trips per grade, or one field trip and one ‘educational opportunity,’ I think everyone is going to want to do that then. And I’m just concerned it’s going to take away more time from the day, more time from our education,” Overlander said.
Lausch was also opposed to changing the one field trip per year policy.
Board member Ron Melleby explained why he thought the field trip policy was such a hot topic.
“Fourth grade traditionally and without interruption has taken two field trips. People are surprised that they can’t take two field trips because of — not the implementation of, but the enforcement of — a policy that has been in place for a long time,” Melleby said.
In the end, the board decided not to change the field trip policy and to enforce it — allowing one field trip per school year.
This year’s fourth graders have already taken their field trip when they visited an area farm.
The board also held its yearly reorganization meeting on Dec. 7.
Overlander was re-appointed President, and Timothy Markovits was re-appointed Vice President.
Sturgis remains Treasurer, Michelle Kendig remains Board Secretary, and Stephanie Manuel stays on as Board Recording Secretary.
Also at the meeting, Scott Madara, of the Donegal Athletic Club, presented the board with a $95,000 check from its pledge campaign.
The next school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 11, at Donegal Primary School, at 1055 Koser Road, Mount Joy.