The Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board of Education has repeatedly revised district field trip policies over the last several years. On Thursday, the board will try once again to improve the rules governing student travel.
Board members last spring requested that the policies be revised, and that policies more clearly help school leaders to understand how a trip relates—or doesn’t relate—to curriculum and classroom study. The board also asked that several other portions of the policy be revised for clarity.
Last month, high school teacher Dwayne Voegeli took students to Washington, D.C. for several days, but the trip was never approved by the school board. A story in the Winona Post pointed out several conflicts within the district’s field trip policy, including sections that contradicted each other as to whether “supplementary trips” require approval by the school board, or simply the building principal. The general “field trip policy” states board approval is not required, while the “administrative procedure policy” states that such trips are subject to board approval.
"Supplementary" trips are defined as those in which students voluntarily participate, and may include overnight stays. The difference between “supplementary” and “extended” trips is unclear in current policy, but the recent draft changes define “extended” trips as those that occur outside the school year, and may not directly relate to a course of study or school-sponsored activity. "Extended" trips currently must be approved by the school board.
Several other changes appear in the draft field trip policy on the school board agenda for the Thursday night meeting. Chaperones, for instance, will now have to pay for the cost of the trip unless a travel agency offers to pay, and chaperone travel can no longer be subsidized by student fees. According to the draft policy, “WAPS recognizes the large amount of work and responsibility of chaperoning an extended field trip. Board approved chaperones will not be compensated for time spent in planning and supervising, however, when agencies provide the cost for chaperone travel, chaperones will travel at no cost. If no chaperone travel is provided by an agency, chaperones will pay a predetermined amount for the trip which will be noted on Form D. Student costs will not be increased to supplement chaperone travel.”
Forms that must be filled out to provide details of a proposed trip were also revised in the new draft. An accompanying comment to the draft asks that the school board provide clarity about whether supplementary trips—like the recent student travel to Washington, D.C.—should be subject to a vote by the board.
The “administrative procedure policy” currently states that such supplementary trips must be approved by the school board. The draft version in the agenda, however, has been rewritten and the language requiring board approval was removed. The changed language is not indicated with a strike-through font style, highlighted section or other notation, as is common practice when the board is asked to vote on a policy change.
The general field trip policy draft included in the agenda does show changes with strike-through font style and highlighted portions.
When asked why the draft administrative procedure policy in the packet does not acknowledge the removal of school board approval for such trips, high school principal Kelly Halvorsen said that if the board opted to have supplementary trips subject to board approval, the policies would change, again, to reflect that decision.