School board to reconsider request for trip by fifth-graders to France Earlier vote was two short of number needed for OK

February 05, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County school board will reconsider today a controversial proposal to send seven Crofton Woods Elementary School fifth-graders to France for three weeks. But there still may not be enough votes to get the trip approved on the second try.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of the trip at its Jan. 8 meeting, but that was short of the five votes required for approval.

Board member Thomas E. Florestano, who lives in Crofton, favors the trip and missed that meeting. He asked that the issue be on today's agenda.

Crofton Woods Principal Peter Zimmer has proposed leading the exchange trip from May 30 to June 20. The pupils would miss the last nine days of school. The cost would be $1,200 for each child.

The board has approved similar exchange trips for Crofton Woods twice, but two of the five members at the meeting last month balked.

Steven White Jr., the student board member, said fifth-graders are too young for an overseas trip.

"If something should happen and there is an emergency, they cannot communicate," White said.

Board member Michael J. McNelly of Dunkirk pointed to the crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in July, in which 230 people died, including students on a field trip to France, as one reason the board should not approve sending young children on an overseas flight.

Florestano scoffed at that rationale, saying, "If you follow that mentality, you don't fly anymore. Anywhere. That's it."

Approval of trips for older students is routine. For example, proposed trips to Quebec and the Bahamas by middle and high school students also are on today's agenda.

But at least three board members are shaking their heads about the Crofton Woods trip. And Paul G. Rudolph, who voted for it last month, said yesterday he now is "open."

"I am not convinced that we should send elementary school children abroad," board member Carlesa R. Finney said. She was concerned about screening of host families, supervision, emergencies and the small number of children and families involved.

School field trip policy calls for one adult for every five children. The France trip has one adult for seven children, but it is possible for a second adult to go if parents pay for it.

McNelly, father of a fifth-grader, said he would like to see the school system's trip policy reviewed with an eye toward amending it to bar overseas trips by elementary students.

Other board members said such a trip was an opportunity for students to be immersed in another culture and that parents should decide whether to send their children.

The board meeting starts at 10: 30 a.m. in the Board of Education headquarters in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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