Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)


October 02, 2001, Tuesday


School trips in question since terrorist attacks; Parents' choice to assess risk, board member says


BYLINE: Eric Eyre


SECTION: News; Pg. P1A


LENGTH: 619 words

Piedmont Elementary School parents, students and teachers were geared up for this spring's annual fifth-grade class trip.

They planned to visit museums, attend a baseball game, ride a ferry, watch a musical and eat at a trendy restaurant.

But they planned to do all those things in New York City. Now, they aren't so sure.

"The class sponsor came to me this morning," said Piedmont Principal Steve Knighton. "Our intent is to have a meeting with parents to see if it's even feasible to consider going."

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Kanawha County parents, teachers and students have raised questions about school-sponsored out-of-state trips - most scheduled for this spring.

School officials plan to discuss student field trips and class trips with principals at a Wednesday meeting. Next week, school board members plan to discuss the trips at a curriculum meeting.

"It's really a local call. It's up to the parents," said school board member Cheryle Hall. "I will not curtail any student travel. That's hurting our country more than helping it."

Across the country, some school boards have banned out-of-state and overseas trips by students for the rest of the year. Other school districts have outlawed school-sponsored trips that involve air travel to any destination.

In Kanawha County, many elementary schools sponsor a fifth- or sixth-grade class trip each spring. Students usually travel by bus to Williamsburg, Va., and to Washington, D.C. Middle schools sponsor similar trips.

At high schools, students studying foreign languages often travel with teachers to Europe. Some students travel abroad for research projects.

At George Washington High School, Assistant Principal Pete Corbett has fielded questions from students about scheduled trips. One student plans to travel to Australia for a weeklong oceanography seminar. The senior class can't decide whether to go to Cancun, Mexico, this spring.

"Everybody is on alert right now," Corbett said. "Obviously, it will depend on what our next move is, whether we retaliate."

At South Charleston High School, 45 Junior ROTC students plan to travel to Washington on Oct. 11. They had to change some plans. They won't be able to visit Andrews Air Force Base and the Pentagon, where 189 people were killed after a hijacked plane rammed into the building.

But Lt. Col. Fred Chance, the school's ROTC instructor, said students plan to visit other attractions in the nation's capital: the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

"The sooner we get back to normal, the better off we're going to be," Chance said. "We're going. We're pressing on."

In Putnam County, some educators have questioned the educational value of out-of-state class trips in recent years, said schools Superintendent Sam Sentelle. He expects Putnam schools to curb such trips this year.

"I'm sure [the terrorist attacks] will have a dampening effect on it," Sentelle said. "They're pondering these trips more closely."

At Piedmont, Knighton hopes parents don't cancel plans for the trip to New York. Piedmont students visited New York twice in the last five years. Last year, they toured the Statue of Liberty, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the World Trade Center.

Thirty students signed up to go this spring.

Valerie Ponder plans to serve as a chaperone. She wants to go to New York with her daughter, a fifth-grader at Piedmont.

"I don't feel children should be totally sheltered from the tragedy," Ponder said. "I don't want them to run in fear."

To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-5194.


LOAD-DATE: October 03, 2001




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