Two parents of North Crawford fourth graders were unhappy with a recently cancelled field trip to attend Cannons and Red Coats in Prairie du Chien. Last Thursday, the parents attended the school board meeting to express their concerns.
Heidi Olson took the opportunity to address the issue as part of the public input portion of the meeting. The fourth grade parent explained she understood the trip was cancelled because of a lack of funding, but wanted to know why it happened and why parents weren’t notified until close to the time the trip was supposed to happen.
Elementary principal Brandon Munson began by explaining the trip had been cut out of the school’s budget last spring, as the district undertook some belt-tightening measures.
When fourth grade teacher Shelly Biggin approached Munson in mid-August with a plan to pay for the trip with several outside funding sources, he noted his response had been positive. However, in the end, full funding was not received.
Munson said the late cancellation was the result of waiting and hoping the funding would come through. Funding was sought from local civic clubs and while some was obtained, others were not.
The principal said that while he had provided a simple explanation, there was a “much longer and more complicated version” to the series of events that led to he field trip cancellation.
Olson noted that the school had two field trips last week.
“Why weren’t they cancelled?” the fourth grade parent asked.
Munson explained that last spring it was decided trips outside of the area (about a 20-mile radius) were going to be curtailed. He pointed out the trip by the seventh grade to Viroqua was within the area and there was no entrance fee, like there had been at Cannons and Redcoats in Prairie du Chien. While the fifth and sixth grade trip to Sugar Creek Bible Camp pressed the area requirement, there was also no fee.
Olson wasn’t done. She questioned why some sports teams were taking two-hour trips to play other teams, when the elementary kids didn’t have the funding for field trips. She wondered where the money for the sports trips came from.
“It all comes out of the same pool,” North Crawford District Administrator Dan Davies answered. “It’s all from the general fund.”
Davies proceeded to explain problems in athletic scheduling with declining enrollments in nearby districts. He noted there were problems arising and that they would have to be addressed. He also told Olson he didn't see a good solution to some of the funding problems.
Davies explained that students might not have some opportunities they have had in the past.
Olson and some of the board members discussed fundraising efforts that might be attempted.
Board president Mary Kuhn noted that maintenance director Harry Heisz had discussed starting an alumni association recently.
Funding for trips used to be easily obtained from the district’s lucrative “soda fund,” which was profits made from the sale of soft drinks at the school, Davies explained. However, that source of funding has dried up for a variety of reasons.
Munson said that he is not entirely comfortable with placing the funding burden on outside groups like the Lions and American Legion. The principal said he feels the requests place the organizations in a difficult position. He would favor fundraising by an alumni group or a PTO.
He also explained that $400 for a field trip could also be used to send four staff members to a workshop that would benefit many students and the district for some time into the future.
Then, the parents asked why teacher Shelly Biggin’s offer to pay for the trip was rejected.
“If the Lions can donate why was her check not accepted?” a parent asked.
“As a school district, we can’t be expecting teachers to self-fund field trips,” board member Miguel Morga said. “Too many teachers already dip into their own pockets for school supplies and that’s wrong.”
Davies agreed with Morga.
“I’m not comfortable with that,” Davies said. “You’ll have Teacher A funding and B will not be able to fund something,’ Davies said. “Then, you’ll have little child looking up and asking why the class can’t do something. No teacher is going to feel good about that.”
Davies said Biggin's offer was commendable and his hat was off to her, but it just wasn’t the way for the district to go.
In other business, the North Crawford School Board:
• approved a $200 to the Experience Works program, which provides older individuals a chance to work part-time in the school district
• passed a series of policies addressing tobacco use at the school, emergency nursing services, school visitors and some personnel policies
• heard about the Wisconsin School Recognition Award
• heard the third Friday enrollment report was essentially reporting the same number of students as last year
• learned that there was a net loss of 13 students in open enrollment at the elementary level
• was informed about innovative scheduling at the elementary school level