Links for stories on school field trips
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Feb. 7, 2001: Editorial: “Day-tripping 'Rewards' out of hand”
Feb. 13, 2001: “Kanawha board bans movie trips unless educational”
March 6, 2001: “Board to lists ins, outs of field trips”
March 1, 2002: “Gazette's Eric Eyre wins 3 more awards”
February 4, 2001, Sunday
“Field trip of dreams;
Kanawha students flock to the movies on school time”
By Eric Eyre
Copyright 2001 Charleston Newspapers
It's 9 a.m. on a Wednesday at Marquee Cinemas,
More than 450
Three hours later, the buses shuttle the students and teachers back to school.
About once every three school days, some Kanawha County school is sending children to a movie theater, according to a Sunday Gazette-Mail analysis of school transportation records.
The movie trips usually increase around the holidays and near the end of
the school year. Marquee holds special morning showings on school days for
"In December, we did one movie for a school every day," said Rob Thompson, manager at Marquee. "We had so many in December, my brain was fogged. It was just nonstop."
During the school day, students also go bowling (84 times in nine months), play miniature golf (45 times) and shop at Town Center Mall, Kanawha Mall and the Dollar Store.
Sometimes, the buses will make several stops - the movie theater, mall and a fast-food restaurant - with the same group of students during the same school day. The field trips can last more than six hours.
"We don't question them," said George Beckett, the school system's transportation chief, noting that school principals have the final say on where students go on field trips.
Of the 61 times
The county bused more than 7,700 students - a number equal to more than a
third of all
"Maybe, the next time Walt Disney has a major movie release, we should shut down the school system for a few days to save on busing costs to Southridge," said school board member John Luoni.
They said many students have never been to a movie theater before. Sometimes, students watch movies at the cinema that they previously read as books in class, principals said.
But most often, principals said they hold the movies up as rewards for good behavior, grades and attendance.
"Some children have to have something immediately tangible to work
for," said Carla William-son, principal at
Two weeks ago, a
The children were returning from Marquee, where they had watched
"The Emperor's New Groove."
Williamson said no one has complained about the field trip. Fifty-nine children spent three hours at the movies that day.
"The community understands what we're trying to do," William-son said. "The teachers decided it, and I approved it. They asked the kids what kind of reward they wanted to work for."
The total transportation cost of the movie trips was $ 5,277 - a tiny percentage of the school system's transportation budget.
The fuel costs for a single trip can run as high as $ 300. For schools near Southridge Centre, however, fuel costs may fall to $ 30 or below.
Schools also must sometimes pick up the bus drivers' overtime pay. Many schools also pay for students' movie tickets - about $ 5 a child.
If enough children go, Marquee throws in free popcorn and a drink.
"We as a school system need to be careful that we do not reward with
food, particularly junk food," said Brenda Isaac, lead nurse for
Each fall, schools receive money for field trips from the school system's general budget.
Principals can spend the money as they see fit.
They can haul students to
Or they can take them to the movies.
"I'm always amazed we have money for this kind of activity," said school board member Pete Thaw. "Why don't we spend the money for instruction for these children?"
In their reviews of school systems in
"There's a certain amount of time required each day for instruction," said Donna Davis, deputy director of the state Office of Education Performance Audits. "If the school is having a number of activities that are not academically related, then it might lead to a noncompliance."
The activities might be linked to the school's curriculum. Students may watch a movie based on a book they've read. Or the gym teacher may lead a unit about bowling and follow it with a trip to the nearest bowling alley.
Joyce Embrey, principal at Midland Trail Elementary, said 30 students went bowling for that reason last week. The trip also was a reward for students who had doubled the number of books they normally read as part of a school reading program.
"Some of them had never been bowling," Embrey said.
When principals need a bus for a field trip, they must fill out a
"curricular" trip request form and submit it to one of five
For movie trips, some principals put down "academics." One stated, "fun and games." But the majority list "reward" as the reason for the trip to the movies, bowling alley, miniature golf center or roller rink.
Some child psychiatrists criticize principals and teachers who dangle rewards over students for good behavior. They say such measures make children even more dependent on others for approval and recognition. Such students lack self-confidence and responsibility.
But he said societal and cultural changes have created a generation of students who only respond to: "What's in it for me?"
"It's no longer the carrot and the stick," Giles said. "It's carrot, carrot, carrot."