Kids sing for field trip under policy

Donations, fundraisers only accepted
By: Amber Marra,
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Taking class field trips has become a difficult matter for elementary schools in Auburn now that only donations and fundraisers can be used to send students to learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

Every year for the past decade, the fourth-grade teachers at Skyridge Elementary have sent their students to Fort Bragg for days of learning about tide pools, redwood and pygmy forests, sand dunes and coastal headlands.

The trip to Fort Bragg takes the students to the Pacific Environmental Education Center. Kim Morris, one of the three fourth-grade teachers at Skyridge, said the trip usually costs around $190 per student.

With 79 fourth-graders between the three classes at Skyridge, the cost of the trip adds up. Last year, Morris said she was able to not only fundraise, but also directly ask parents for money for the trip.

Michele Schuetz, superintendent of the Auburn Union School District, said providing field trips through donations and fundraisers relate to “pay to play” lawsuits in other parts of California, which have put a “focus on providing students with a free and public education.”

“Now we just tell parents ‘this is what it costs’ and they can make a donation from there,” Schuetz said.

In the middle of last year, she said that changed. Now Morris said she can only ask for a donation from parents and have her students fundraise as much as they can.

Schuetz said when any notice of a class or grade field trip is sent home to parents, it can only ask for a donation. That has resulted in struggles for classes across the board, but that might not only be due to only accepting donations and fundraising.

“Right now we’re having a harder time earning the money for field trips, so classes are doing more fundraising, but that also has to do with the economy when you look at all of our schools and see that our free and reduced lunch levels have gone up,” Schuetz said.

The current Auburn Union School District policy states that any field trip that would result in student exclusion due to lack of sufficient funds will not be approved by the superintendent.

That means if a class or grade can’t raise enough money or gather enough donations for a field trip, no one goes.

Schuetz said in the event a class or grade cannot raise enough money to go on one field trip, teachers usually arrange for one that is cheaper. If that can’t happen, the donations can be redistributed, but Schuetz said that can be complicated.

“The law has always been that way. Students could never be prohibited from going on a field trip because they can’t pay,” Schuetz said. “The only change is when a school sends out a field trip notice it can only happen through donations or fundraisers.”

As a result, getting to Fort Bragg for the Skyridge fourth-graders has presented a new challenge, so Annie Beauchamp, 9, and her fellow fourth-graders have taken things into their own hands.

Annie, who has been playing guitar since she was 7, will be strumming and singing along with a group of her friends in hopes of gaining some tips in front of Bootleggers in Old Town Auburn Friday night from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Annie and her group have rehearsed songs like John Denver’s “Country Roads,” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner.” They will also be playing a few Taylor Swift songs during their performance.

“I feel really good that I’m doing something for my school. I like doing that better because if we can’t afford for some kids to go, then we all can’t go,” Annie said.

Morris said around $1,500 has been either donated by parents or raised through student fundraisers for the trip to Fort Bragg, but she said it will take more fundraisers in the meantime.

“It’s hard because for some of our parents things are just getting tighter and tighter,” Morris said.

Schuetz said other schools have had to resort to similar fundraising efforts and that many times parent, teacher organizations will step in to help send students on field trips.

“A lot of PTCs support specific activities, for example at EV Cain (Middle School) they help support the sixth-grade picnic, the seventh-grade swim party and the eighth-grade gets to go to a water park,” Schuetz said.

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.