School officials to review, revise travel policy
SUMMIT COUNTY – Schools Superintendent Lynn Spampinato wants to review and revise the district’s travel policy – not because it is too restrictive, but because it needs to be tightened up.
“I think we have to firm it up,” Spampinato said. “We have to be safer than we are.”
The school board adopted a revised travel policy last year, in the wake of Sept. 11 and after some students broke school policies on a 2001 high school trip to Equador. School officials believe there may be too much room for interpretation as the policy is currently written.
“We’re just going to go through it and look for the gaps in the policy,” said Summit High School principal Frank Mencin.
For example, the school district requires students to maintain a minimum grade-point average to participate in school trips. As the policy is currently written, however, a student can work until just prior to departure to reach that grade requirement.
As the high school band trip to Hawaii earlier this year illustrated, this can cause problems for more than just the student, said Jim Hesse, assistant principal at Summit High School. Not only may a student be financially committed before reaching the grade requirement – and out money if he or she is unable to go – but the rest of the group may also be left in a lurch.
“If you’re taking a group like a band somewhere and you need people for certain positions and then you find out you don’t have a violinist or a drummer – a few people affects the whole group,” Hesse said.
School officials said they’d like to update the policy so students must meet the grade-point average a month or perhaps even the semester before the trip.
“If you don’t have the grade at a certain point, it should be null and void,” Spampinato said.
Mencin said that teachers leaving for trips while school is in session can affect the academic progress of those students that remain behind.
The high school has two groups headed on trips a week before spring break and the high school will be short three teachers for those four days. Classes led by substitute teachers tend to be more wasteful than valuable, he said.
“It’s just not the same anytime when the regular teacher is gone,” Mencin said.
In addition, parents coming to the school for parent-teacher conferences miss out on the chance to discuss their child’s performance in person with those teachers. Though parents can sign up to have teachers contact them when they return to town, few parents do, Mencin said, as they prefer personal contact and immediate feedback.
Even if they do sign up, parents likely wouldn’t hear from the teacher for several weeks – after the teacher has returned from spring break and has had time to catch up.
School officials will look at all aspects of the policy in the next month, including how to proceed when there are national advisory alerts on travel.
Last year, the school board allowed two school groups to travel separate from the district after former superintendent Wes Smith cancelled the trips because of homeland security travel concerns. Spampinato wants to avoid that situation in the future.
“I think it kind of puts teachers at risk,” Spampinato said, adding that she wants the district to enforce the policy and adhere to national advisories.
She plans to have a recommendation for the school board in the next 30 days and invites parents to contact her with any issues or concerns regarding the travel policy before then. She will revise the policy once she receives direction from the board and anticipates a second reading before the board adopts the revisions.
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