R-1 parents express senior trip concerns

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 6/2/21

VIENNA — Several parents and Maries R-1 teachers spoke to the R-1 School Board at its May meeting, identifying their concerns about the current model R-1 uses to raise funds for the senior …

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R-1 parents express senior trip concerns

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VIENNA — Several parents and Maries R-1 teachers spoke to the R-1 School Board at its May meeting, identifying their concerns about the current model R-1 uses to raise funds for the senior trips and about what students actually are doing on the out-of-state trips.

There were several parents and R-1 teachers at the school board meeting. Maries R-1 teacher, Mrs. Debra Starkey gave a senior trip presentation. She noted in 2020 there was not a trip because of Covid-19. This year, the seniors had difficulty finding a school representative to go on the trip with them. Faculty members have heard the stories from students returning from the trip about inappropriate and sometimes possibly dangerous activities that have taken place. Faculty members don’t want to be responsible for students getting hurt because of inappropriate behavior, “Especially when students announce, ‘That’s what senior trip is for—getting drunk.’”

Starkey said there is so much fundraising that goes into raising the $30,000 or more needed for the senior trip that it diminishes fundraising opportunities for lower classes and school organizations. All of this money is from the R-1 community and each year it is spent elsewhere. This year the freshman class could not find something to sell as all of the opportunities already were taken. 

Starkey said some faculty members came together and talked about possible alternatives to the current R-1 senior trip model. They include no trip at all. Also students restricted to places such as Universal Studios or Disney where they cannot leave and there is less down time for mischief-making or inappropriate behavior. Another suggestion is a day trip each semester of their senior year to closer destinations such as skiing or snow tubing in Eureka, Great Adventure, Science Museum, and more. 

With a different model, students no longer would have to do all of the concession stands and only do one fundraiser their junior and senior years. Another idea was have the students do a fundraiser each year and go on four four-day trips their senior year. 

Starkey said if the junior class no longer covered the concession stands, it would free up the fundraising avenue for other organizations that want or need to raise money for items such as instruments, music, scripts, and more. The sponsors of those organizations would be in charge of one or two months a year, with one teacher per year from these organizations in charge of restocking.

Board President Vicki Bade asked who came up with the ideas. Starkey said four or five teachers and some parents. Starkey said many of them want to see changes made. The faculty members have heard many stories about senior trip behaviors and they don’t want to go not the trip.

Board member Dave Garro said he’s been on senior trips and “I don’t have those stories.” He thinks the trip is a bonding experience for the kids. For some of them, it’s an opportunity they will never get to have. Also, the work they do from freshman to junior year with the fundraising is a learning experience and they learn big lessons from it.

One teacher asked if the kids work the concession stand or if their parents do it for them. Garro said that is the choice of the parent. 

Teacher Angie Combs said 17 of the 54-member freshman class have enough points now. Starkey said the junior class has so many students who don’t want to go as some think they aren’t popular enough. She said the teachers have contracts they are concerned about. This year the seniors could not find a school representative to go with them. Garro said they can’t make changes until they talk to the kids.

Starkey said they wanted to come up with alternatives. On the senior trips, the kids get three days and the rest is spent on the bus traveling to usually Florida. 

Bade said she is not opposed to what they are saying but the timeline is unfair. The students need to be surveyed. The junior class decides. The senior trip has been a tradition at Maries R-1. She is not opposed to changing it and also thinks moving around the responsibilities of the concession stands is a good idea. Garro said he thinks it would be hard to get organization to staff the summer time concession stands. 

Parent Kari Hayes addressed the school board members and those present. She said she has a junior this year and they are starting the process. Her family’s issue is “the world is not the same as it was.” She has concerns about being four states away when dumb stuff is done on the senior trip. Some parents may say, “Let them do it” but Hayes said she is not going to support that. There is a lot of responsibility on the faculty members who go on the trip. About the fundraising, Hayes said the community supports it, but $30,000 is a lot of money and they don’t want to hear they used it to go to Florida to get drunk. This is not what all parents want their kids to be doing on the trip and she thinks now is an appropriate time to look at this, think about it, and make plans. 

Combs said the teachers feel as though there is a lot of liability for them going on the trip. Teachers also have helped with sophomore class parking cars at the fair and then parents and kids don’t show up. Hayes said the people who don’t show up hurt others in the group. Board member Joe Barnhart asked if it would cost less to do shorter trips and they said yes. 

Hayes said some schools do really cool project graduation events and there probably is more bonding in those 24 hours than the 24 hour road trips it takes to Florida and back. Combs said some students have jobs and can’t go on the senior trip. Barnhart asked them go give them some options. 

Starkey said there are times fundraising is needed but it all goes toward the senior trip. She noted a recent trip a group took to the Fabulous Fox the teacher paid for because they could not fundraise for it. 

Bade said this topic has come up before when sponsors did not want to go on the trip and they asked parents to go and tried to get one school representative on the trip. There is not a policy about it. “I want kids to do what they want,” she said. She added she is not discarding the opinion of the parents, and has concerns that all they are hearing at the meeting is the students on the trip are getting drunk and high.  

Board member Mike Kleffner agreed with the statement by Hayes that the world has changed. Bade said it probably is a good time to look at the issue. She suggested a committee be formed to work on this. She wants to know what the junior class students want to do as they’ve already earned most of the money for the trip. Bade said she’s always struggled with the point-work system because students behind and they drop out of the trip fundraising and don’t get to go. She also likes the idea of making the concession stand fundraising available to more classes and organizations. “It’s very valid that times are so much different than they were.”

Hayes said the parents appreciate the school members listening to their concerns. Bade said she thinks the juniors this year can choose where to go on their trip or if the class members want to do two small trips. She would like to see more participation in the trips and less money spent. “Let’s see what the juniors come up with and going forward have a committee to work on it,” Bade said. “We’ve had reservations but the community supports the senior trip so well.” 

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