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Friday, June 28, 2013

Paying for field trips

Question: Several years ago when B-P had a contingency budget, students were asked to pay a certain amount to cover the cost of the buses when they were used for a field trip. The district is no longer on a contingency budget, yet the district is still asking the students to pay for the cost of using the buses. Why is this? Teachers are asked to collect bus money from the students for field trips, yet the students were not asked for money to pay for buses when they went to the Mohawks game. Did the intermediate school cover the cost? Are all schools asked to collect money to pay for the buses for field trips? Does the district have a written policy on this?

Answer: Yes, the district did begin charging families for field trips when it operated on contingency. We decided to continue the practice when we had a passed budget because money is still tight and we still must prioritize our spending.

We considered several options regarding field trips under a passed budget. We could have cut down the number of trips that our students take every year and covered 100% of the costs using district funds, or we could maintain the number of trips our students take each year and continue asking families to pay a small amount (usually less than $5) to help defray costs. We also could have maintained the number of trips AND used district funds to pay for all of them, but that would have meant cutting funds from other areas, like modified sports, in order to pay for the field trips.

Decisions about which field trips are paid for by the district and which are not are primarily based on the purpose of the field trip. Most field trips that our students take at the elementary level are more about extended learning opportunities and recreation, while the ones at the middle and high schools tend to relate directly to learning. The district is much more likely to pay for trips that relate directly to learning than for trips that represent extended learning opportunities.

As for the Mohawks game, we were fortunate in that the Mohawks organization gave us free tickets and food vouchers free of charge -- the only cost associated with that trip was the buses, which worked out to about 50 cents per student. Rather than ask families to pay such a small amount, Mr. Casey was able to cover the cost out of his intermediate school budget.

And regarding your last question, no, there is no formal Board of Education policy regarding field trips.
- answered by Stephen Tomlinson, Superintendent of Schools

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