8th Grade Washington D.C. Trip Fails to Get Approved

by | Dec 19, 2018

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

For the first time since 1999, there will be no Washington D.C. trip for 8th graders come spring, after the School Committee voted 5-2 Tuesday against approving this year’s trip.

The trip and field trips in general have been the source of heated debate at School Committee meetings in recent years, over questions of equity, cost and the law.

The Washington D.C. trip has been particularly nettlesome because it takes place over three school days and is directly tied to the curriculum but comes with a $1,400 per studentprice tag this year, borne by individual families. Last year’s trip cost $1,200 and less than half the class participated.

The EGHS Model UN club at the actual UN in New York City in 2018.

For several on the committee, it just isn’t right to have such an expensive trip as part of the curriculum and expect parents to bear the cost.

Committee members Matt Plain, Lori McEwen, Gene Quinn, Alyson Powell and Jeff Dronzek voted against this year’s trip; Chair Carolyn Mark and Committee member Anne Musella voted in favor of the trip.

‘If it’s that important to us, we should strive to make this something that’s exciting to all students and easily available,” said McEwen.

Plain has been troubled by the D.C. trip – and other field trips – since he joined the committee in 2015, questioning the legality of having students pay for anything that is considered part of the curriculum.

“Rhode Island public schools may not charge a fee for school services or programs,” he said during a discussion last April, citing state law.

At that earlier meeting, the School Committee voted unanimously to seek an advisory opinion from the state Dept. of Education but that opinion has not yet come back to the district. Chairwoman Mark said she voted in favor of the trip, even with her own misgivings, because the committee had not yet heard from RIDE.

“We need to get that opinion before we start to make a lot of changes in the district. We have not collectively set a new policy and I didn’t think it was fair to pull the rug out from under this 8th grade class,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “We need to do the hard work of getting the policy revised … before taking such drastic action.”

That said, she added, “I think the School Committee is fairly unanimous about its concerns about the trip and a desire to see it done differently.”

In particular, she said she was disappointed the administration had not found a way to lower the cost of the trip. She said Barrington also offers its 8th graders a Washington D.C. trip but at a significantly lower price – between $500 and $600.

The School Committee did approve, by a 6-1 vote, a New York City trip for the Model UN Club at the high school. Matt Plain cast the only dissenting vote.

The difference for those on the committee who voted against the Washington D.C. trip but for the Model UN trip was due to it being a club trip not tied to curriculum.

At the meeting Tuesday, the committee tabled discussion of EG’s state test (RICAS) results to Jan. 8. Mark said the discussion would take place early on during the Jan. 8 meeting, to accommodate any parents who would like to attend. And it would be folded into a discussion about the state’s new accountability system, which was unveiled yesterday.


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21 Comments

  1. Jody Stone

    Outrageous.

    No wonder the links to this Agenda were MIA until an hour before the meeting (when I found and posted it myself from the Secretary of States Website).

    We have already had the Parent information night!

    The kids have been chatting (boys & girls) non-stop about it. They have been beyond excited. Forms were due back to Cole on Jan. 4th. I am dreading telling my daughter this today.

    I don’t believe that this could have been handled any worse.

    If you still believe that this SC vote and the Town Manager vote were not purposely planned for the same night, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

    Happy Holidays, EG Class of 2023! 😔

    #thanksmatty #priorities

    Reply
    • Greg Kauffman

      I received the agenda in the EGSD Weekly Notice email last Friday, so it wasn’t exactly last minute notice. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the meeting to express my frustration with how the field trip itself is handled.

      Other districts offer DC trips but run fundraisers throughout the school year to offset the cost to families. I am unaware of any mention about fundraising for the Cole 8th graders.

      I think $1400 is outrageous for a field trip, but I don’t think eliminating the trip altogether is appropriate. Perhaps with a strong, coordinated fundraising effort by the 8th grade class, the SC vote would have swung the other way.

      Reply
    • Mary

      I don’t understand why the field trip cost 1200 dollars for East Greenwich students. Regardless the trip to Washington is introduced at the 5th grade orientation. You as a parent are given different opportunities to save for this trip. I had the pleasure of taking my child last year . It was very informative and interesting. I feel it was worth every penny. My 7th grader is heart broken. That he will not be able to attend that yearly trip. It is a shame and the people that voted against this shame on you.

      Reply
  2. Heather Larkin

    I’m glad to see it go. One of my kids went, the other didn’t. My beef with the trip was always that it was so expensive. Many other towns in R.I. and other states take the same trip with Close Up and the cost is significantly higher here in EG for some reason I could never quite figure out. I think west Warwick wasnoffering the trip for almost half of what we paid. Even when figuring in the cost of flying versus a bus it was too much money for one person to spend three days in DC and eat all meals in a food court. My kid a a great time and all but….

    Reply
    • Mary

      Kate we only paid half of the price. I don’t understand why it cost 1200 or 1400 for East Greenwich families. It is very sad that they canceled it.

      Reply
  3. Camille Speca

    I also find it very disheartening. My daughter was looking forward to the high school French trip this year, only to be told it is not happening.

    Reply
  4. Kate Carter

    It’s really too bad this has to be cancelled. A bit of foresight, starting even as early as their first year at Cole, could have made this affordable for everyone.

    Reply
  5. Kim Huntley

    It is sad that this trip was cancelled. My older daughter, who is now in 10th, has been able to take advantage of all of the school programs that EG has offered, but it seems that my younger daughter, who is in 8th, doesn’t get the same treatment.
    We have already had the parent meeting and funds have been set aside or requested as Christmas gifts at this point. If it were cancelled due to low numbers, I would get it, but that is not the case. As far as fundraising is concerned, I believe that is up to the individual families. Some kids bust their butts fundraising just so that others don’t have to, and that is not fair. My family, by no means, is made of money, but we put it together for our children and make sure our girls are on the same footing going through school. However, it is becoming really hard to give my younger daughter the opportunities when they keep getting taken out of the schedule.
    My head truly hearts thinking that we moved to EG for the schools and now I feel like we are in a bait and switch. So disappointing.

    Reply
  6. Christopher Baccei

    As a parent of two E.G. students, I am not surprised by this. This price is higher than it needs to be. Two years ago, when my son attended the trip and I went to the parent meeting, I asked about fundraising. The administration at the parent meeting responded that there was no need for fundraising because they had enough families that wanted their children to attend at this price. There was no other discussion about fundraising. I was quite surprised that there was no interest in wanting the children to try to take responsibility or ownership for such a program at this cost by fundraising. It would definitely make the trip more affordable for those that were interested in fundraising and those that wanted to pay the full price could certainly do that. As an educator in another district for the past 16+ years I have never seen a DC trip at nearly this cost. Students in my district have three years to do fundraisers and reduce their cost significantly. It would have been nice for the school to set up such a program to allow students to work towards this trip and to reduce the burden of the cost.

    Reply
  7. Carla Swanson

    If it’s part of the curriculum it must be accessible to all students. A $1200 or $1400 price tag is not Feasible for many families. Agree the timing is bad, they should have scrapped it sooner. Thank you Matt Plain for your leadership on this issue.

    Reply
  8. Robert Gianfrocco

    This development is very disturbing. My daughter was looking forward to this trip which has a high history and civics educational value.
    With the exorbitant school budget, its hard for this tax payer to see why services are being limited and yet there are projections of tremendous unfunded pension liabilities and lack of funds for school facilities.
    Unfortunately, we had a very unsatisfactory experience at EGHS for one of my children and have now found a much better experience elsewhere.
    Perhaps we need a school committee and town council who is willing to alter the educational contracts so that they put more priority on the students and the taxpayers rather than the school employees?

    Reply
    • Joe

      “Perhaps we need a school committee and town council who is willing to alter the educational contracts so that they put more priority on the students and the taxpayers rather than the school employees?”

      You might want to rethink this statement.

      Actually as stated in a town council/School Committee meeting earlier this year regarding the School Department Audit the school committee has negotiated very good contracts.

      “Overall based on the present personnel contracts, it is evident that the East Greenwich School Committee has negotiated contracts that will save the district money in years to come,” the report stated. “Furthermore, there is nothing else that can be removed from these contracts if East Greenwich wants to hire and retain quality staff.”

      So before we go popping off and blaming teachers, maybe do a little bit of research.

      Reply
      • Robert Gianfrocco

        I disagree with your analysis of this, Joe.
        The town council and school committee are supposed to manage these contracts so that present and future liabilities are in line with what the town and its residents can pay.
        It does not matter what a third party states if those responsibilities have not been met as is now the case.
        I stand by my statement.

        Reply
  9. Rosemary Stitt

    Thank you to the School Committee for having the wisdom and courage to take the right stand in not allowing this trip, which for too many would be prohibitively expensive. Further, even a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis would not justify $1400, nor the 3 days away from school.

    Reply
  10. Kim Huntley

    To praise the school committee for this is ridiculous. The parent meeting was held, just as it had been in previous years. It is now the holidays and focus is on celebrating with family and friends and this has taken away from that enjoyment. Funds were put on the Christmas wish lists and now what do you do with that money, let the kids go off on a shopping spree for clothes and electronics that are so against the true meaning of the donation or save it for their college education (a buzz kill for the kids). I agree, the price is hefty and maybe there should have been some suggestions for alternate ideas, but all out cancelling this trip is not fair, and especially without a full on discussion. Money is money, we can’t die with it and we are never garanteed another day, so if enough people want to go on this optional trip that takes the kids out of the classroom for 2 days (we get Monday off) then why take it away. For those who truly can’t get the funds together and the kids really want to go, understanding that it is an intensive program that requires participation to get the most out of it, then a fundraising option should be available.

    On a side note, in this day and age why isn’t there some interest in a person doing a blog/vlog during this trip. For those kids that do not go on the trip either because they are not interested or the financial situation, then at least there could be a level of experience that follows along with the course of studies. If a school committee meeting can be on you tube, why can’t there be a similar channel for a Washington DC trip? Just a thought.

    Reply
  11. Tracie Truesdell

    I completely understand the disappointment the kids must feel right now. Cancelling it sooner would have avoided too much disappointment for the kids.

    I support and agree with the discontinuation of this trip. It’s not the responsibility of the school to send children on trips to have these experiences. That is the job of the parent(s).

    Reply
  12. Kelley Donnel

    idiotic idea. Beyond disappointed with everything East Greenwich is depriving from the class of 2023. The class of 2023 (my daughter being one of them) have had a horrific middle school experience. The town council has made unfortunate decisions. I feel nothing but guilt that my daughter was and is not able to enjoy her middle school experience. And thanks to Matty because you added to the worsening of her exposure to middle school.

    Reply
  13. ML Formisano

    This trip was always gnarly for me. I was confounded many years ago (@10) that a large portion of PTG budget, presumably for the benefit of as large of Cole population as possible, went towards DC TRIP that less than half of just one class attended. I was disappointed then that those resources couldn’t go towards programs to touch majority and enhance community.

    Fingers-crossed the disappointed folks at present will find a way to make lemonade from lemons.

    Reply
    • Kim Huntley

      As far as I know, the cost of this trip is solely placed on the individual families. If someone has any information as far as cost to the school or PTG funds, please share that information so everyone can get a better perspective of the financial impact to the school.

      Reply
  14. Blue

    I disagree with this decision. All three of my kids went to Cole, and none participated in this trip. Why? I thought the cost was ridiculous. So my husband and I decided to take April vacation and bring them ourselves (we saw more, enjoyed more and spent less per person). Some families can afford this, or make sacrifices to make this trip attainable. Some kids will be able to afford privates colleges, premier sports leagues, etc. Some kids will not. Life and finances are not fair.. that is life. This trip should have stood for this year and moving forward other options should have been explored. With that being said, canceling the trip is not the end of world. Your children will survive.

    Reply
  15. Rob Casagrande

    The idea that all students should have access to the field trips is an excellent goal, and I hope the intent. The approach here to get an outgoing state leader to write an opinion that it is illegal to ask parents to fund any extra-curricular activities appears will have exactly the opposite intent (unless the intent was just to eliminate the activities). Think about this: including the trip costs in the school budget, funded primarily by property taxes, simply forces all parents to pay for the trip. Yes, parents of children only fund a portion of town taxes, but those parents who have moved to EG for a better education will just have their taxes (rent if they can’t afford to buy a home) raised, making this education more out of reach to many. And, doing it through a state mandate may have that impact across many across the entire state of RI. So, the result is only 1 of 2 outcomes… eliminate the trips or force all parents to pay for the trip.

    Reply

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