Field trips nixed by administration
Ohanian Comment: Another byproduct of NCLB.
By Jennifer Killin
Student, parents, and teachers bombarded the school board with requests for field trips during Monday night’s meeting.
One of the requests was made by first grade students at Ruben Chavira Elementary School to take a trip to Alamo Village, a reconstruction of the original Alamo used as a movie set and informative center north of Brackettville.
More than 30 people crowded the boardroom to ask for permission for that trip and another for a kindergarten class’s trip to the Prairie Box Petting Zoo located in Jap Lowe Estates.
Marta Galindo, one of the teachers requesting the Alamo Village trip, said that her students raised the money through fund-raisers so it would cost the district nothing to send the kids on the trip. Galindo added that her students are good students with good grades and deserve to take the outing.
“These kids have done what they were supposed to and they have patiently waited for their turn to speak without making a peep during this meeting,” said Galindo.
The meeting had reached the 45-minute mark when Galindo received her chance to approach the board.
Another Ruben Chavira teacher Katie Gonzalez, who teaches first grade bilingual students, approached the board asking them to reconsider the original decision to disallow the trip to Alamo Village.
“Educating the child is not just taking tests and passing the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test, it is teaching the ‘Whole’ child by providing them with different cultural experiences. We are not just preparing our students for the state test, but preparing them for life,” said Gonzalez, who provided the board with the preplanned itinerary set for the trip.
“Please do not deprive them of this opportunity to enhance their education,” Gonzalez added.
Oscar San Miguel Jr., who attended on behalf of his son’s class for the voyage to the petting zoo, told the council that his son’s class too had raised the amount needed to pay for their trip.
San Miguel asked the board if they were even aware that the trips had been denied. A question that only board member Yolanda Sotelo-Garza responded with a headshake to indicate no.
“I didn’t think so,” said San Miguel. “You all kind of look like you’ve been attacked at the Alamo.”
San Miguel extended the offer to pay for each of the board members to attend the petting zoo if they wished to “check it out” before allowing the kids to go.
Some students from Ruben Chavira also approached the council asking for reconsideration.
According to San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Roberto Fernandez, the policy for requesting field trips has been set for several years and the requests simply did not meet the criteria for approval.
Fernandez said in an interview Tuesday that field trips are allowed, but the requests must coincide with state curriculum.
“We have to weigh the educational benefit of these trips if the students are going to miss a day of school,” said Fernandez.
"Are they going to learn more on this field trip, or in class?"
The state has placed strict accountability on the district, partly due to the “No Child Left Behind” act, that requires serious evaluations of instructional time, said Fernandez.
“For example, we used to be tested strictly on reading, writing, and math. Now, we’re being assessed in reading, writing, math, social studies, and science and we have had to protect our instructional time very frugally,” said Fernandez.
Another issue Fernandez said was hindering the trips is the availability of transportation.
Fernandez cited the current UIL, soccer, softball, track and baseball trips that take place in the spring as the reason for lack of transportation availability.
“There just aren’t enough bus drivers to handle this load and we don’t want to double-up on scheduled bus routes and make other students suffer for the sake of a few,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez said that the policy for field trips has been on the district books since 2003, adding that these trips could be taken on the weekend without any conflict.
An option Fernandez said many schools have opted to take.
Galindo said that this didn’t seem like a viable option to her because many students would not be able to attend the trip if it was on a weekend.
Del Rio News-Herald
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES