Cutting back on school travel? Eastern Hancock considers limiting field trip funds

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Eastern Hancock Schools Corp. might stop covering the cost of school field trips, unless teachers can convince administrators the trip serves an academic purpose.

Eastern Hancock Schools Corp. currently pays for all field trips, including non-academic outings, such as class trips to theme parks, said superintendent Vicki McGuire. She suggests Eastern Hancock adopt a policy requiring students to chip in or place the responsibility on a parents’ group to raise money to cover transportation costs. A field trip can cost the district $1,000 between the cost of paying a bus driver and fueling school buses, McGuire said.

That excludes organizations, like Eastern Hancock’s FFA, that use smaller buses and have teachers drive instead of paying a bus driver. Transportation to athletics events, band and academic competitions would also be excluded from a new policy, officials said.

Natalie Schilling, whose son, Luke, will be a fourth-grader this year, said she doesn’t see a problem with the district drawing the line at non-academic trips. For outings like after-prom trips, parents and students already tend to reach out to local businesses for sponsorship. This would be just one more item to be sponsored, she said.

Schilling, who also is a former teacher at Eastern Hancock schools, said she hopes the district will continue to find the funds for academically-geared trips.

“It is so valuable for students to gain experiences and do things they wouldn’t be able to do in the classroom,” she said.

At a recent school board meeting, opinions differed about how field trips should be funded or whether the district should pay for any field trips at all.

Some school board members suggested that classes should only be allowed one field trip each, or that they should have to cover the costs of all field trips.

“Don’t hand it to them,” said Scott Johnson, school board member. “Make them earn it.”

Tom Younts, school board member, said he believed field trips should be limited to one per class.

Eastern Hancock Elementary School principal Amanda Pyle said each grade school class is allotted two field trips per year, and she values the opportunity for students to expand their horizons.

“I have a heart for kids who have never left Charlottesville or Greenfield,” she said, describing their excitement and amazement when they visit somewhere they’ve never been.

The school board didn’t vote on the issue, but Pyle and Eastern Hancock middle and high school principal David Pfaff agreed to monitor field trips for the upcoming school year to see how much they cost the district.