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Some parents of Hollister Dual Language Academy (HDLA) students took issue Nov. 14 with Hollister School District’s recent decision to ban overnight field trips.
Six parents spoke out during the public comment about the board’s unanimous decision, particularly in relation to the annual overnight sixth grade science camp field trip during the winter.
But the Hollister School Board of Trustees and Hollister School District Superintendent Erika Sanchez held firm. Both sides said they are speaking with the interests of the students in mind.
The decision means the upcoming sixth grade overnight science camp will be canceled. Parents expressed disappointment, especially since the funds had been secured.
“This year we raised about $2,700. So that meant all the students would have been able to go without paying for the field trip,” Nikole De Morales said.
Morales, a parent of a sixth grader at HDLA, said she went on the science camp field trip herself in 1986.
Parents also questioned the timing of the decision, as the students had already begun preparing for the field trip.
“It is baffling why this decision was made mid-year without any input or discussion with parents and community,” said HDLA parent Sonya Espinoza. She later told BenitoLink the board should have updated the policy at the beginning of the school year before planning for the trip began.
Espinoza added the sixth grade camp is important for students.
“Sixth grade camp is a right of passage,” she said. “For many kids it is their first time away from parents overnight.
In her report, Sanchez stated that in previous meetings that the board had been updating their policies to fit within measures endorsed by the California School Board Association (CSBA) and the district’s legal counsel, which included Board Policy 6153 regarding overnight field trips.
The policy was updated in October, Sanchez told BenitoLink. “The last time this policy was updated was in February 2018. It was time for this policy to be revised to include recommended language,” she said.
Board Policy 6153 now states: “Overnight field trips shall not be conducted, and requests for overnight field trips shall not be approved by the district. All other field trips shall be approved in advance by the principal. The principal shall establish a process for approving a staff member’s request to conduct a field trip.”
Sanchez said the board believes that stopping overnight science field trips and creating day camps “will create an inclusive procedure where barriers are removed for students to attend.” Among the barriers the board mentioned were parents who did not approve of overnight field trips and the cost to low-income families.
The new policy “allows for more schools to participate in day trips as not all the Hollister School District schools participate in the overnight field trips,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez added that she had met with a parent from the parent club, and that the HDLA school administration surveyed students about interest in the science field trip. “The response was a collective yes they would like to attend under the guidance of the new board policy.”
But this contrasts with comments from some who spoke at the meeting, including Tatiana Contreras, a member of the parents club. During public comment Contreras said, “My fifth grader was in first grade when COVID happened; he’s had one field trip. I’ve been promising him, ‘You get to go to science camp and we are going to make up for all those missed field trips.’ The kids really look forward to this field trip.”
Sanchez said she and the board are working with HDLA to create a day field trip with the science camp for students. Parents said they plan to launch a petition and get the issue on board’s agenda for its Dec. 12 meeting.
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