New rule will impact Bristol Warren field trips immediately

Schools must change how they finance field trips — and decide if they can have them at all

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/12/19

A state law prohibiting public schools from asking students’ families for any funds for any purpose will be strictly enforced by school districts, beginning this year. Though the opinion was …

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New rule will impact Bristol Warren field trips immediately

Schools must change how they finance field trips — and decide if they can have them at all

Posted

A state law prohibiting public schools from asking students’ families for any funds for any purpose will be strictly enforced by school districts, beginning this year. Though the opinion was issued by the former state education commissioner, the new commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green, has upheld it.

In a letter from Superintendent Jonathan Brice that was sent out to all families with students in the Bristol Warren school district on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 10, the administration clarified the impact of the new ruling. It read, in part:

“We believe this opinion was intended to ensure that no public school students were unable to attend field trips sponsored by schools due to lack of family funding. The opinion has the unintended consequence of placing school districts, such as BWRSD, in the difficult position of canceling field trips, fundraising for field trips, or turning over the design and implementation of field trips to outside groups such as the PTO or Band Parents Association.

“For the 2019-2020 school year, BWRSD will support field trips in the following ways:

“1. BWRSD will only pay for field trips if funding is permissible. In most cases no funding exists for BWRSD to pay for field trips.

“2. Many PTOs expressed that they have a budget for field trips. A discussion about the seventh-grade Nature’s Classroom field trip was held today and information about this specific trip will be provided to current KMS 7th grade parents in a separate letter.

“3. Privately sponsored trips are still permissible and students can be asked to pay and/or fundraise for these trips. It is our hope that our parents and community members will make donations to support field trips so our students can continue to benefit from enriching educational experiences.

“Any school sponsored field trips will continue to be open to all students regardless of ability of parents to pay for the field trip. However, without generous support from the BWRSD community we may have to cancel some field trips due to lack of funding. If you have any questions, please contact your student’s administrator.”

In a separate conversation, Superintendent Brice clarified that privately sponsored strips, such as band trips, or overseas trips taken by foreign language students that are not part of the school-wide curriculum, may still be funded all or in part by individual families.

“The trip has to be not school-sponsored,” said Superintendent Brice.

In the past several years, the Bristol Warren Educational Foundation has provided some funding for field trips. According to board chairman Nicky Piper, last spring, BWEF “voted to approve contributions to ‘field-trip’ style programming at Guiteras, Rockwell, Mt. Hope High, and the Nature’s Classroom experience at KMS, along with 26 other in-school programs across all six schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

Not all of these programs, however, are 100 percent funded by BWEF. Notably, Nature’s Classroom has typically relied on some funding from students’ families.

“The Bristol Warren Education Foundation sets out to fund innovation in our students’ classrooms by funding grant applications submitted by the district teachers. The Grants Review Team sees many incredible applications relating to curriculum-enhancing experiences outside of the formal classroom setting, and believes passionately in the value of access to these opportunities for all students.”

Still the group’s resources cannot be seen as a panacea for this sudden and costly problem, as BWEF funds contribute to a wide range of educational opportunities, both in and out of the classroom. According to Ms. Piper, “We will continue our fundraising efforts moving into this new school year, and look forward to partnering with the Bristol Warren community, the PTOs and the BWRSD to fund as many creative learning experiences as possible.”

A second letter, clarifying a path forward for Nature’s Classroom, a well-regarded weeklong overnight fall field trip which has been undertaken by KMS 7th graders for several years, and has become a highly-anticipated part of the curriculum, was sent out the Grade 7 families on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

The letter, signed by KMS Assistant Principal Rosemary Burns, shares the news that an emergency planning meeting was held on Tuesday, Sept. 10, and it was determined that the PTO will be taking the lead to raise the $70,000 needed to send this year’s seventh-graders on the Nature’s Classroom trip.

Donations cannot be earmarked for a particular student. The entire amount must be raised or the trip, currently scheduled for early November, will need to be cancelled. Alternatively, the possibility exists to reschedule the trip for spring, allowing more time to raise the funds, or shortening it, to make it less expensive.

The letter concludes, “If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.” The main number at KMS is 401/245-2010.

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