School board tentatively okays new field trip guidelines

Michael Karlik/Lingle Guide Torrington High School Principal Chase Christensen discusses revisions to the Goshen County School District’s field trip policy with trustees.

TORRINGTON – At a recent work session the Goshen County School District Board of Trustees gave the administration direction to revise its field trip policy.

A 150-mile limit will be instituted for field trips for students in kindergarten through second grade, and a 250-mile limit will be in place for students in third grade and above. Any trips exceeding those distances will require board approval. 

Currently, the guidelines only dictate time limits for field trips. The trips must occur between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for K-2 students, and may not exceed 10 hours for students in third grade and above. Those limitations will remain in place, with the board retaining the power to approve trips that deviate from the rules.

In addition, the administration will propose language to opt high school students out of field trips, rather than the current method of opting in through parent
permission slips.

“We’re always out of compliance with these regulations,” said Trustee Rod Wagner, who requested the topic be discussed. “We’re not meeting the definition for traveling distance and grade.”

During the discussion, multiple participants had the impression field trip guidelines flagged out-of-state trips as needed the board’s blessing.

“It’s difficult when going to Scottsbluff, which is a very short trip, requires approval, where going all the way to the University of Wyoming [in Laramie] doesn’t,” said Superintendent Ryan Kramer, “because we’re staying within the state.”

However, a few minutes into deliberating, board Chair Katherine Patrick said she could not find state line language in the rules.

“I think it’s been a tradition,” Trustee Zachary Miller said after board members closely examined the policy.

Trustee Kerry Bullington noted the guidelines indicated that field trips “must be limited to a reasonable traveling distance,” which could have led to an interpretation about state boundaries.

Patrick said she and Wagner had concerns about long distance trips where students are “on a bus for eight hours for a two-hour experience, being exposed to the hazards of highway travel.”

Kramer acknowledged that for K-2 students, her concern was valid.

“I’m a big supporter of field trips because those opportunities do aid a lot of learning that is taking place in the classroom,” he said. “Probably the majority of our students may not have those opportunities to go because of family financial situations. When we curtail those things, are we affecting those who can’t afford it as a family?”

Kramer compiled all of the GCSD field trips from the 2018-2019 school year for the board, which listed trips as close by as the Wyoming Theater and the Goshen County Fairgrounds and as far away as Washington, D.C.

Changing the opt-in system of parental permission slips arose when Torrington High School Principal Chase Christensen mentioned an upcoming freshman field trip to Wheatland.

“We’re sitting at about 55 or 60 percent of permission slips returned from freshman parents. I’m not going to be able to have those students go next week if we don’t get those in,” he said. “If we made it an opt out, we’d probably get one back, maybe, of a parent saying, ‘I don’t want my kid to go.’”

Other board member requests included requiring chaperones to be spread throughout a bus on field trips, which Trustee Carlos Saucedo raised. Kramer asked if Saucedo knew of any GCSD field trips on which that had been an issue. Saucedo responded in the negative, saying he wanted to be proactive.

Miller also expressed his displeasure with athletic field trips occurring on days where there was no school, making it difficult for families to take three-day weekends together.

“We’ve talked about trying to move toward that so we don’t have kids missing school,” Christensen countered.

Trustee Mark Jespersen requested an enumeration of what a bus would cost and what a substitute teacher would cost before field trips are approved.

“I think you’re right. It’s very pertinent to include that,” Kramer said.

“It would be good for teachers to have to look at,” Christensen concurred.

Other topics

Trustee Ryan Clayton proposed adding three student members to the school board board. A draft policy circulated to trustees stated that three eleventh grade students, one from each high school, will “provide insight and support to the board’s understanding of student issues and perspectives.”

Participants would receive a 0.5 elective credit for each semester of board service and a $200 scholarship for each representative after completing two full semesters as a board member.

Trustees expressed support for the idea and Patrick suggested the proposal be added to the October board agenda for discussion and adoption.

For future work sessions, trustees voiced a strong interest in discussing standards-based grading. 

“Some things I would need are the why and the how,” Trustee Christine Miller said. “This board’s never really heard that. It was never implemented with the reasoning of increased student performance. Why are we working toward this? We’ve done it part way and done a horrible job of it.”

Standards-based grading replaces the traditional A-F grading scale with a 1-4 scale to measure proficiency and mastery. The aspiration is to provide students and parents a deeper understanding of how the child is learning.

“Traditional grading systems are about as subjective as you could possibly ever generate,” Kramer said.

Christensen said that teachers at the high school use a blend of traditional and standards-based grading in their work.

Zach Miller advocated for future discussion of online school registration for students, which Kramer said would come back to the board after the administration receives the pricing it requested. Miller also asked for an engagement survey of school employees. Patrick and Clayton agreed, saying they would like it to be administered in January or February.

Christensen updated the trustees on his participation in Goshen County Attorney Eric Boyer’s single point of entry taskforce. Its purpose is to explore alternatives to county youth participation in the criminal justice system.

“We have students that are being assigned community service and there’s not a whole lot built out in the community. If funding existed down the road, though, I think that the program could be built out to involve quite a bit more options for community service,” he said, “and possibly some more options for diversion away from the judicial process.”

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