Education

MHS January Ski Trip Approved, Despite Questions in Policy

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A Methacton High School ski club trip scheduled for January was called into question by one local resident, forcing the board to relook at field trip policies.  Credits: Trysil
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In an otherwise rather quiet meeting of the Methacton School Board of Directors on Tuesday night, a ski trip to Colorado became a hot button topic of discussion. Planned by the Methacton High School’s ski club, in what Superintendent David Zerbe called an “annual tradition,” the club will travel to Winter Park Resort in Colorado from Jan. 15 to 19 in 2015.

A small cost, approximately $200, was required for substitute teachers.

Lower Providence resident, John Andrews, asked why such a topic was up for board approval and the spending of district dollars, as listed under “Field Trips.”

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“I looked at a calendar, and I believe there are two school days involved,” said Andrews during the public comment portion of the meeting, regarding voting items before the board. “I think of a ski trip to Colorado for public school students in Pennsylvania as a social activity. Our students are not in skiing competitions, and this is not related to course work.”

Andrews noted that two particular policies govern such trips as outlined in the district’s regulations. A policy numbered “121” pertains to field trips, while “122” is designed to govern extracurricular activity.

As the trip did not seem part of “planned instruction,” as a field trip would dictate, nor a “contest or competition” as an extracurricular activity would warrant, Andrews did not see the need for the district to be forced to pay for teachers while the students were out.

“There is no basis for it,” he said. “It should not be approved as a proper expense item. I’d much rather see them go on weekend trips to Vermont or even here in PA.”

Later in the meeting, Mary Katona, director of curriculum, presented the board with the field trip for approval. She said that the cost was for three or four substitutes for just one business day.

Prior to a vote on the matter, School Board Member Kim Woodring said that, given a resident had policy concerns, that perhaps the board or policy committee in particular should review the matter prior to approval.

“Is there an urgency to approve that now or maybe shift that to the policy committee to look at it?” asked Woodring.

Zerbe said that he would recommend against waiting on the vote.

“My recommendation would be if there is concern about the item, to take a look at that policy and reflect against would be appropriate,” said Zerbe. “At this point, as students are preparing for this activity to take place, putting it off another month might jeopardize their ability to plan and make arrangements.”

Zerbe felt that the board ought to allow this particular trip, and then review policies pertaining to similar circumstances for items moving forward.

Board President Christian Nascimento agreed.

“We’ve approved these types of trips, and we ought to take action because these kids are waiting,” he said. “We can take it to the policy committee to make sure it is all copacetic for the district [afterward].”

The board seemed to agree, as well. The motion to approve the Methacton High School’s ski trip in January was approved, 8-0, unanimously by the board. One board member, James Phillips, was absent from the meeting due to illness.

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