Summit Schools Contemplate Student Tours of Holocaust Sites, Interviews of Survivors

Students tour a site south of Krakow, Poland. Credits:

SUMMIT, NJ—Junior Class students at Summit High School may be offered the opportunity to spend two weeks in Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland touring sites associated with the Holocaust, meeting and interviewing survivors, and speaking to experts on the era.

Possible participation in the Holocaust Study Tour program, designed to provide students a firsthand perspective of one of history's darkest periods, was discussed by the Summit Board of Education's education committee and previewed for the Board and public at the education committee’s April workshop session.

Education committee chairwoman Celia Colbert said the committee’s hope, at this stage, was to see the trip funded privately, and they further hoped that one of the two weeks would be during spring break in order to mitigate the amount of classwork missed.

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Colbert added that the trip most likely would have to be made during the school year, at least during the first year of the program, because the committee thought it would not be feasible to ask school staff members acting as chaperones to travel outside the school year.

Superintendent of schools June Chang said the program not only would give students an opportunity to interact with Holocaust survivors, but also would enable students to explore issues they typically would not explore in the classroom.

He added the program would enable Summit students to expand their global perspective and interact with trip participants from schools from throughout New Jersey, and also with public and private school students from California and other states.

Chang noted that students in his previous district used the trip as background for essays they wrote at the conclusion of courses on the Holocaust, and many used it for college admission essays.

Board member Debra McCann added that those who participated would be able to blog about their trip and thus give their fellow students at home summaries of their experiences.

Additionally, according to the superintendent, the participants would be asked, upon their return from the trip, to make presentations to fellow students in all district schools.

The superintendent and Colbert said the cost of the trip would be about $5,550 per student, but the district wanted to raise enough money so that no student would be turned away strictly because of his or her family’s inability to pay the cost.

He added that he has discussed -- with school and city officials -- the possibility of using $20,000 from the Lincoln-Hubbard Fund as “seed money” the first year and, from that point on, to seek donors for the cost.

Chang said there would be an application process, with four to five students traveling the first year, accompanied by James Woods, supervisor of social studies, and another faculty member. The ultimate goal would be to have about 15 students participate yearly, with only one staff member going after the first year.

He said, although he expected juniors actually taking holocaust courses at the high school to be the majority of those applying for the program, it would be open to all juniors. Students returning from the trip also might want to use it as background for senior year studies on the Holocaust, but the program would be outside the school curriculum, and not offered for credit.

As part of the application process, students would be asked to complete an essay detailing their interest in the topic and reasons for wanting to participate in the program. A committee would select participants in the program based on application materials submitted.

On another topic, the education committee discussed the possibility of building a greenhouse of the roof of the Lawton C. Johnson Middle School to give middle school students a chance to study sustainability by raising their own resources.

The superintendent added that the facility could be used for elementary school field trips and after school programs, and Summit High School students also could be involved in maintenance of the greenhouse.

Assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe said the middle school roof currently is accessible, but the greenhouse would be an enclosed structure.

The superintendent said it was hoped that the structure also would be financed by private funds, with the district paying for maintenance, which could cost about $12,000 to $15,000 per year.

He said he could not estimate construction costs until he discussed the project with district architects.

In her policy committee report, McCann highlighted specifics of a policy on the so-called 'Option 2,' which will enable Summit High School students to take college courses and courses on the internet while receiving credit through the local district.

For college courses, she said, grades and assessments would be determined by Summit district personnel after student completion of a course.

For self-paced internet courses 100 percent of assessments of students would be done by members of the Summit school district staff.

However, in the case of the Virtual High School, in which students would take classes broadcast over the internet by teachers in virtual classrooms, 100 percent of the grades would be determined by the Virtual High School organization.

The reason for this, according to Summit High School Principal Stacy Grimaldi, was that classes offered at the Virtual High School would not be available at Summit High School.

Students would be informed before beginning classes that grades they receive will be part of their grade point average, the superintendent noted.

According to another proposed policy -- to be introduced for first reading at the school body’s April 21 regular meeting -- members of the public would be allowed to electronically record all school board meetings without board permission except in instances where they needed to set up recording equipment in a specific location in a board meeting room.

Another policy to be introduced on April 21 would see students, who live in Summit but whose parents are called into active military service, being allowed to remain as students in the district.

Students moving out of the district, due to domestic violence situations, would be allowed to remain in the district until the end of the school year in which they enter Summit schools.

If any student’s family moves out of Summit on or after March 1 of any school year the student would be allowed to remain in district schools until the end of that school year.

Seniors whose families move out of Summit at any time during a school year would be permitted to complete their senior year at Summit High School.

Another policy, pertaining to medical marijuana, would permit parents to come into the schools to dispense medical marijuana to their children, with the children themselves being forbidden from carrying the substance into district schools.

On another matter, board member Debbie Chang reported that the Union County Educational Services Commission was opening up internship courses for its students at Overlook Medical Center to students from the Summit school district.








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