Hall County school board
In other Hall County school board business:
- The board approved charter school petitions for: McEver Elementary School, which is pursuing a fine arts charter; Martin Elementary School, which is pursuing a math, science and technology charter; and for Chestatee Middle School, which is pursuing an academy of inquiry and talent development charter.
- Johnson High School is seeking board approval on Oct. 19 for its international and legal studies charter. The school is holding a community presentation and vote on the charter petition at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Johnson High, 3305 Poplar Springs Road. The community, school staff and board must approve the charter for it to be submitted to the state Department of Education by November.
Olivia Metzdorf, an eighth-grader at Chestatee Middle School, has been practicing with her school’s chorus to perform at a choral competition in Orlando, Fla., this spring. But the singers may not get to take the $550 Disney World trip.
Elementary and middle school students in Hall County schools may not be able to take overnight, out-of-state field trips if the school board alters its field trip procedure to discourage pricey outings.
Hall County schools Superintendent Will Schofield said as the economy lags, he and the board are hearing more parent complaints about expensive school field trips their kids want to take.
"The feedback we’re beginning to get from parents is ‘We don’t have $400, $500 or $1,000.’ In these economic times, we need to be awful careful what we’re asking of parents," he said.
Parents, not the school system, often foot the bills for such trips while school fundraisers help defray costs. Schofield said expensive nonessential field trips put many parents of Hall students in a bad position.
He said more than 55 percent of Hall students receive free or reduced lunch, and the majority of parents are having an increasingly tough time paying for school trips and band or sports uniforms. Schofield said 35 percent of students at Hall’s most affluent school now receive free or reduced lunch.
"Just because we’ve done it in the past five years doesn’t mean we can do it now," he said. "We are in unprecedented times."
This spring, the board restricted subvarsity athletics to in-county competition to reduce transportation costs.
At Monday night’s board work session, Schofield said he and the board are likely to discourage out-of-state travel for elementary and middle school students to reduce parents’ financial burdens and promote a more egalitarian approach by planning more in-state field trips.
Hall County school board Chairman Richard Higgins said the board understands parents are stressed financially, and many parents are encountering financial hardship for the first time. He said the board is not banning out-of-state travel, but is adopting a more sensitive approach to granting approval for pricey trips.
School system leaders said, however, they will continue to support out-of-state, competition-related field trips for high school students.
"We don’t think you can take high school groups who are world class and not support them when they get to that level," Schofield said.
They said, too, that the board does not intend to adopt a new policy on field trips, but is shifting its procedures.
Schofield said, for example, that if an elementary school’s Odyssey of the Mind team was invited to a national or international competition, the board would likely approve that out-of-state trip.
Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Hall County schools, said teachers of the year from each school are working with teachers and administrators to determine how they can offer more low-cost area field trips that truly support what is being taught in the classroom.
A group of about a half dozen parents attended the meeting to speak on the issue. Their comments were deferred to the board’s meeting on Oct. 19, when public comments are typically invited.
Shannon George was one of the parents who wanted to share her comments with the board. She has two children in the chorus program at Chestatee Middle School who have been anticipating their eighth-grade chorus field trip this spring to the Heritage Festival in Orlando, Fla.
She said parents have been planning a spaghetti dinner and dessert event to raise funds for the trip. George said students who need financial assistance can receive help through the fundraisers.
"I think now we’re denying our kids an opportunity to excel," she said. "... If the opportunities are there, you hate to hold your kids back."
Olivia said she’s been working toward this competition for three years and would be disappointed, and even a little angry, if she doesn’t get to go.
"We could show everybody how hard we’ve been working," she said. "... I’ll only get that experience that one time, and those would be memories I can’t replace."