1/9/19 Board wants more say over school trips

Board wants more say over school trips
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 1/9/19    
Reprinted with permission.      

If your child is traveling out of the country with a teacher over spring break, there’s a good chance the trip hasn’t been approved by the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education.

At the board’s meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8, Tony Rose broached the issue after a hearing a request to allow Williams High School students to travel to León, Mexico, this summer.

Since June 2017, Williams has participated in an exchange program with the city, allowing students to travel to Instituto Lux, a pre-K through 12th-grade private school, in June, and Mexican students to travel to Burlington during one of their breaks.

Rose thanked staff for informing them about the trip, adding that many other schools are not following proper procedures where international travel is concerned.

“We have a board policy that says the board approves international trips, and I’ve been on the board eight years, and this is maybe the second one we’ve seen, and I know there’s a lot more international travel,” Rose said.

That’s because trips are often organized through outside agencies instead of the school system.

“What’s going on is that there are these [travel agencies] that advertise to our teachers that they get to travel for free if they recruit a certain number of students within their sphere of influence to go [on] these trips,” Rose said. “And I’m not questioning the integrity of the trips. I think the trips are valuable. They usually do it during spring break and, if you read the fine print, the relationship is between the students, the parents and this travel organization. But when we hang posters on our walls and we have interest meetings in our buildings and the trips are chaperoned by our teachers, it gives the appearance that these are school-sanctioned trips.”

But they aren’t school-sanctioned.

And, without board approval, Rose argued, important details, like who’s chaperoning and whether students have been properly immunized, are going unchecked.

“My biggest concern is the safety of the students and then the liability of the system,” Rose said.

Board Attorney Adam Mitchell agreed that principals should be briefed on the issue.

“We can’t prevent our teachers and our students from traveling privately during their vacations, but we really need to be clear that it is not our trip. We have nothing to do with it. They’re not meeting. They’re not hanging posters in our classrooms,” Mitchell said. “I think being aware of that and making sure we’re taking those steps is one issue, and then making sure that when we have these true, school system trips, we’re doing things the right way.”

Chief Secondary Officer Revonda Johnson assured the board that, since her arrival, she’s enforced the rule that any field trip, including travel outside the country, must be approved through the proper methods.

Board members will vote on the Williams trip at their night meeting Monday, Jan. 28.