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Seniors will get to take trip even if ‘educational’ value questioned

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My Views by Thomas J. Barr, publisher

 When is a policy not a policy? When you can find a good reason to bend the rules.

It was almost a funny situation.

On Sept. 9, the Bullitt County Public School System held its monthly work session.

At these sessions, the members have a little extra time in a more informal setting to discuss things such as field trip policies.

During this particular session, although no formal request had been received, board members were advised that a senior trip for Bullitt East might be on the horizon.

The senior trip to Orlando is nothing new. Over the years, high schools in the county have made the trip.

Normally, the trips are in early May and entailed missing a Friday worth of classes.

The unofficial request from Bullitt East would have students going to visit Mickey and Friends the week after spring break. If memory serves me, the trip was set for a Thursday through Sunday.

Board members stood firm. The policy says that field trips must serve an educational value. If the trip goes out of state, approvals must go up the ladder and end with the school board.

On Sept. 9, the members were firm…very firm. If a request was made, they didn’t seem inclined to approve the request.

With the power of our communications system, the phones and e-mails started lighting it up. 

How could you do this? Everyone else did it in the past.

It’s not fair.

We’ve been looking forward to it since our freshman year.

All valid points.

But the board stood firm.

Until the calls and e-mails started to arrive.

If you have policies, it is hard to grant exemptions. Well, I guess not too hard.

As a parent, I remember a few years ago when my son told us - probably at the last minute when the money was due -- that North Bullitt was going to Florida.

My first comment was probably - NO. I stood firm on that answer.

And then he probably commented that all his friends were going. It would be their last big time to spend together as a group. He would be miserable if he didn’t get to go.

I stood firm until he started making his arguments. And I got over the concern about thousands of high school seniors from all over the country converging in a single space with some, but not enough, adult supervision.

I trusted my son and his friends. As you have already guessed, he won.

And, as you have already guessed, the Senior Class of 2014 at all three schools also won.

The school board voted to grant this one-time exemption.

Good decision.

The whole philosophy about field trips is a twisted one. 

Sometimes we take ourselves a little bit too seriously when it comes to education.

I know that sounds bad. But let's look at this.

We cannot expect students to sit in a classroom from bell up to bell down and learn. We cannot expect teachers to have a lesson plan and teach from the first minute to the last minute.

School is a lot about relationships. I am convinced that if students care about their teachers, their principal and their school, they will work harder when it counts - test time.

Growing up in Jefferson County, field trips were important.

It was used as a reward. It gave us a break, like recess or putting our heads down on the desk for a few minutes in the afternoon.

I know some students were very disappointed when they didn’t get to go on the field trips. They tried harder the next time.

In the case of the senior trips, we must face it - by the final weeks of the school year, either they will walk the aisle or they won’t.

I do like having conditions placed on eligibility for a senior field trip.

And I think there must be some provisions to help students who can’t afford such a trip.

We must remember that a public education should be affordable for all.

Field trips should be at the discretion of the school principals. 

No, I do not believe a class should go on dozens of field trips each year. I would much rather see a limit placed on trips.

A day out of the classroom is not going to kill the educational progress of a child. And, if there is a big concern, maybe the teachers could instruct the students while they are on the school bus going to the field trip.

Or, better yet, maybe buses could be equipped for generic lessons that students can listen to on the way to school. Maybe current events or newscasts could be transmitted over speakers. Maybe I’m on to something here.

Really?

I’m glad the board members understood the importance of the senior trips. I’m glad they waffled and gave that exemption to the policy on field trips.

It was the right thing to do.

It might be a good thing that a group of seniors on a trip for the weekend in Florida don’t learn anything of educational value. It might be a time where they just need to have good, clean, responsible fun and a time where they will create memories to last a lifetime.