Barrington Middle School officials emailed parents of eighth-graders this week, warning that donations for the Dec. 19 field trip to Trinity Rep.'s production of "The Christmas Carol" were well short …
Barrington Middle School officials emailed parents of eighth-graders this week, warning that donations for the Dec. 19 field trip to Trinity Rep.'s production of "The Christmas Carol" were well short of the $7,500 price tag.
In fact, donations from students' parents totaled $4,795. Officials have said that if fund-raising efforts fall short, the students will be sent on a less expensive alternative field trip.
In April 2019, former Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Ken Wagner released a decision on field trips. The decision removed school districts' ability to charge students and their parents to attend field trips that connect to the curriculum, electives or courses.
Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said he believes the decision sends the right message to students everywhere.
"No student shall be ineligible to participate in a field trip based on their family’s ability or willingness to pay, or on their level of participation in fund-raising activities," Mr. Messore wrote in a district-wide email to parents.
District officials worked hard to build a local policy governing how Barrington schools would handle field trips.
According to Mr. Messore's email, "The district’s annual budget shall contain an allocation of field trip funds for each school. Students and schools may participate in fundraising and accept voluntary contributions to support a school's field trip allocation, as outlined in the BPS Gifts, Donations, and Memorials Policy."
District officials were happy to see the first test of the new field trip policy pass with flying colors — Mr. Messore said the Barrington High School cross country team collected donations and held fund-raisers for a trip to Vermont for the Thetford Invitational meet this fall.
In mid-October, eighth grade students brought home permission slips for the Dec. 19 field trip to Trinity Repertory Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol." A second sheet of paper was stapled to the permission slip, explaining the new field trip regulations and a request for donations.
"In an effort to support the traditional 8th grade field trip to 'A Christmas Carol' at Trinity Repertory Theatre, the 8th grade is in the process of raising $7,500. If you are interested in making a donation to support this field trip, please send in a check made payable to BMS in an amount of your choosing," it stated.
The letter also explained that the donations were non-refundable.
"In the event that our grade level does not raise the full funding for this trip, we will pursue lower-cost options," it stated. "In the event that we raise more funds than are required for this grade level trip, the additional funds will be moved into the school-wide 8th grade field trip account."
The permission slips and donations were due back to the school by Oct. 31.
On Monday, Nov. 4, an email from the eighth grade teachers informed parents that $4,795 had been donated. It is not clear whether the school or PTOs will hold fund-raisers to accrue the balance for the trip, or if students will be sent on an alternative field trip.
Mr. Messore said the alternative field trips may prove to be as rewarding as the previously planned events. He said he anticipates that the new policy will present some new challenges, but is confident that the district will find solutions.
Field trip FAQs
The school district earlier emailed a list of frequently asked questions regarding the new field trip policy.
• What is excluded from the new policy? Social events such as prom, and club activities not defined as an instructional activity and/or learning experience provided outside of the regular classroom environment…
• Can the schools suggest a donation amount for a field trip? No.
• What will happen to large-scale trips, such as band trips and the Washington, D.C. trip? "Schools will have to collaborate on long-term fundraising solutions to provide students the opportunities to continue to attend these trips…"
• What will happen if a group does not meet its fund-raising goal? If a group does not meet its goal, and the school or district budget does not include sufficient funds to cover the trip, the trip cannot occur. The group should decide on potential back-up strategies in case this occurs. Some options include planning for a less expensive alternative or rolling the money over in the activities account to the next year.
• Will the district begin to budget for field trips? "Unfortunately, this year's budget was passed before the announcement clarifying this regulation. The district and building administration will review potential budgeting strategies for future years."