Three years after the vote was cast, several parents addressed the Willsboro Central School Board of Education about the decision to no longer sponsor an annual senior class trip.
The decision, which was voted on in 2008, goes into effect with the class of 2013, the first class, at that point, which had not started fundraising for a trip.
“Over the years, there had been issues, and we were hearing a lot of feedback from the residents and concerns about what they felt were school-sponsored vacations,” board President Craig Jackson said. “It was a matter that was on the agenda for discussion back in 2008, and we decided then that the class of 2012 would be the last to have a trip.”
“One of the board’s concerns at that time, and it is still a concern, is the liability that we assume for the students and the liability that is placed on the chaperones,” school Superintendent Stephen Broadwell said. “The board’s decision was to limit that exposure. We are just eliminating the week-long trip. We are not saying that they cannot leave the county.”
Parents at the meeting expressed their concerns that, among others, the original vote was not publicized.
“No one in the community knew that there was a vote taken,” Angela Pierce said. “I have talked with people for the last week-and-a-half before this meeting, and they had no clue.”
“To me, there are children who will never get a chance to get on a plane other than this trip,” Lisa Cumm said. “The senior trip is something that is always discussed and remembered when you go to your reunions and see your old classmates.”
Pierce said that she felt the trips did offer educational merit.
“Who can say that Disney or MGM Studios are not educational?” Pierce said. “Who says that education cannot also be a little fun?”
“Just getting out of Willsboro is educational,” Cumm added.
Parents also said that the majority of other schools in the region still have a senior trip, even threatening that the loss of the trip would cause more students to go to other schools.
School board members also commented, most stating that they agreed with the current situation.
“I think that you should not sell your kids short and just assume that after they graduate, they will not get out of New York state,” board member Phyllis Klein said. “We try to instill in them that learning is a lifelong experience.”
Klein also offered the idea of a parent-led organization for the senior trip, instead of the school format where teacher-advisors were responsible for the fundraising and oversight.
“There is no reason why you cannot get together and organize as a group of parents,” Klein said.
“What would be the difference between the school organizing the class trip or a community of parents doing the same?” board member Jon Steeves said. “Why couldn’t the community take on that role?”
Board member Bruce Hale said that the need for the school to protect the interest of the taxpayer is the top priority when it comes to decisions like this.
“If we feel something is an undue risk, we have to go against that,” Hale said. “It may not be popular, but we have to do what is in the best interest for the taxpayers.”
“I will be the first one to donate to a class,” Jackson said. “But as far as the school assuming the risk associated with a class trip, the constituents I talked to have said that they don’t want to assume the risk.”
Board member Scott Sayward said that, even though the senior trip has been a tradition at the school, he was not in favor of reversing the 2008 decision.
“There are so many risks involved when taking a large group of students away for a week,” Sayward said. “I know it hasn’t happened yet, but I cannot see where it benefits the taxpayers to have a lawsuit if something were to ever happen.”
Parents also said that the senior trip serves as a bonding opportunity for members of the class and gives them the chance to be together for a week as a class instead of part of the school collective.
The parents also said that they felt the school was a more appropriate route for planning and overseeing a class trip.
“You guys are the pros at it,” Pierce said.