Extended school trips are facing some scrutiny at District 861 public schools, after the School Board asked for a committee to study the policy guidelines that outline what kinds of student travel can be endorsed by the district.
The board has altered that travel policy several times in recent years. In May, the board approved two foreign trips for 2013: one to Spain, and another to Western Europe studying the history of the Holocaust. At the time, several board members questioned the way that such trips are related to curriculum, as well as safety precautions in areas that are experiencing political unrest.
On Thursday, the board directed a committee of board members and administrators to reexamine the extended travel policy for ways it could include more information on how such trips are incorporated into curriculum. Board member Ben Baratto said he wanted the committee to also look at how expensive these trips can be, because it can be difficult for families to find thousands of dollars for their children to participate. He and board member Steve Schild volunteered to assist in the committee’s efforts.
Curriculum director Jenny Bushman said that almost any trip can be curricular in nature, but sometimes it is just for the sake of travel, since that can be educational, too. Sometimes, she said, staff members end up “stretching” to find those curricular ties, so it would be nice for the policy to include some mechanism that recognized the value of travel on its own.
Schild agreed that travel itself can be a valuable learning tool, but said that there needs to be a very firm line for when the district endorses a trip. Board member Mohamed Elhindi said that the board should not be endorsing a trip simply so that a teacher or adult planning it can advertise with posters and other materials at school.
Board member Gary Shurson brought up the liability the district can face when it endorses a trip as a district-related function. If staff would like to bring students on a trip, let all the students who can afford it attend, he said. But, added Shurson, it’s not necessarily a function of the board or district to approve of such travel. “Someday, something’s going to happen, and when it does, it’s going to cost the district lots and lots of money,” he said.
‘The Bird Cage’
Selling and marketing Winhawk tee-shirts and other wares used to be the task of students and staff in the Winona Senior High School business department. Now, after changes in classes and staffing, that task is about to become a private affair, as district administrators look to out-source The Bird Cage, the little store at the Senior High School that sells the merchandise.
Last week the board was briefed on the plans to ask for outside proposals to run the store. Winona Senior High School Principal Kelly Halvorsen said that sales at the store have been down, and it is not reaching the customers school leaders would like to be reaching.
Halvorsen said proposals to run the store would likely include a percentage of sales that would go into district coffers for the program, and having an outside company run the store could also lead to online sales. Additionally, other stores in town selling Winhawk wares that include the trademarked logo may find that trademark being enforced with an outside business operating the store and having official permission to use the logo.
Activities Director resigns
The board also approved the unexpected resignation of Clark Jones, district Athletic and Activities Director, effective July 31.