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Details of six international trips planned for ETHS students in the 2017-18 school year were presented to the District 202 School Board at its Feb. 27 meeting. During the discussion, the question that has been asked for the last few years, surfaced again: do all students have equitable access to these trips?
Aside from listing the relevant details about each trip – including location, dates, chaperones, number of students and cost per student – the report included the rationale and the academic considerations for each trip. This year’s report also included results of surveys given to students who chose not to attend the trips offered last year, as was requested by the Board. Cost was a leading factor.
The travel program is scheduled to take students to Antigua, Guatemala, in June, at a cost of $4,290 per student (which includes pre-trip training in Seattle ); the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada, in September for $700 a student; Japan in January 2018, part of a student exchange, costing $2,800 per student; a European tour of Italy and Paris for $3,100 a student; Belize over spring break in March 2018 at $2,325 per student; and Heilbronn, Germany, in June 2018 for $2,200-$2,500 a student.
Access has been “an important issue for years,” said Board Member Mark Metz, pointing to a report finding that the cost and parental concerns, possibly because of the expense, was something he was “very concerned about.” He asked if there was “equitable access” for students to these trips.
Robert Brown, Associate Principal for School Operations & Logistics, said that there is a “financial barrier,” but the school does what it can to make the trips affordable for students by providing fundraising opportunities and scholarships, and by planning trips in non-peak months when possible.
Principal Marcus Campbell said that the school has helped locate financing for up to 75% of the trips’ costs and that ETHS has “amped up” outreach efforts, but there is still a “sticker shock” for some.
“Here’s what gets me,” said Board Member Jonathan Baum. If these trips are truly as “powerful” an experience as reported, “it’s unfortunate that it’s an experience a minority of students have.” He pointed to the explanation in the report that the European trip is said to make the experience of AP History better.
“I can’t think of anything all kids participate in,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.
Board President Pat Savage-Williams encouraged staff to “think of ways to let students know that this is a possibility for them.”
Board Member Anne Sills asked if members of the community might be approached to donate travel points or to sponsor a student.
Honor Allen, the student representative on the Board, suggested that trips be presented to students their freshman year so they know “what’s coming up,” which could help them make course decisions.
The report also pointed out that trips are planned so that students miss as little school as possible. Those on the trip are required to tie their experiences to a class curriculum through writing assignments.