West Jefferson Hills revisiting field trip policy
West Jefferson Hills School District leaders are considering revamping rules for field trips to ensure students aren’t missing too much class time.
Administrators have recommended revisions to the district’s field trip policy to keep them from taking students out of class for more than two days at a time. However, at their March 26 meeting, some board members raised concerns with putting a specific number in the policy.
Board members ultimately removed the policy revisions from the agenda and asked administrators to rework it and bring it back for a vote next month.
The goal is not to restrict students from taking field trips, Superintendent Michael Ghilani said.
“It’s just to be more thoughtful and purposeful in when we take them, how long we take them and what the benefit is considering the cost of missing instructional time,” he said.
The superintendent said the district is looking to cut back on field trips that sometimes last as long as seven days, when they could be shortened or done over long weekends to lessen the amount of class time students are missing. Many of these field trips occur in March, April and May, the time leading up to state and advanced placement testing.
“We’ve looked at field trips here, and we want them to be purposeful,” he said. “We just don’t want kids missing school. That’s all. We still believe the band can go to Disney. We still believe the baseball and softball teams can travel, but they just need to be a little more thoughtful with how they do that.”
Some board members found the two-day limit to be arbitrary.
“My expectation is that the administration is doing due diligence and working with the teachers on this type of thing. I don’t know that we need to have a policy stating two days. I’m admittedly against that,” board member Jill Bertini said.
Board members agreed field trips should have an educational value.
Revising the policy gives the district the opportunity to create guidelines for what types of instruction needs to occur on a field trip if it’s going to keep students out of the classroom for more than two days per field trip, board member Kimberley Finnerty said.
“I think there’s opportunity here to improve what we’re doing currently, but maybe just have a little more thoughtful discussion around how to better set up the guidelines,” she said.
Ghilani agreed there needs to be a caveat if students are attending workshops, adjudications or if it’s the only time a program is offered. Such circumstances could result in a student attending a field trip that keeps them out of school for longer than two days, he said.
Erin Gramm, a 2013 Thomas Jefferson graduate, raised concerns about making cutbacks to field trips. A high school field trip to Allegheny General Hospital she took at TJ to watch a live surgery is “one of the main reasons” she’s on the path to becoming a doctor today, she said.
She talked about numerous other field trips she took during her time in West Jefferson Hills that helped shape her life.
Ghilani said field trips like the one to AGH will not be affected. Longer trips, he said, could occur over long weekends or spring break. Parent Lori Danen pointed out costs could be high if the band were to head to Disney on a weekend, and students could miss a religious holiday with their families if the trip occurred over Easter.
“If you give people guidelines, it ensures that things are fair and equitable,” Ghilani said. “I don’t want to be accused of favoring athletics or favoring the arts. I’d rather have sensible guidelines, and I think two days are very sensible.”
The school board will meet next for a work session on April 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Thomas Jefferson High School cafeteria, 310 Old Clairton Road, Jefferson Hills.