School board rejects trip abroad for 5th-graders

February 06, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County school board again rejected a proposed trip to France for seven Crofton Woods Elementary School fifth-graders yesterday.

The 4-3 vote came after a long, tense discussion of the three-week exchange trip -- from May 30 to June 20 -- that would have required the students to miss the last nine days of the school year.

Principal Peter Zimmer, who planned to lead the trip, refused to comment after the vote. This was the first time in recent memory that a student trip was so scrutinized. The school has sponsored fifth-grade exchange trips to France twice before.

The father of one Crofton Woods fifth-grader, who was planning to go on the trip, was so infuriated that he promised to leave the county.

"I am taking three very high-achieving kids, and we are going to Northern Virginia," said Gary Pavela, an administrator at the University of Maryland College Park. "This vote was the final issue for us."

The continued controversy over the school's French language immersion program, now in its second year, has been "disconcerting," Pavela said. "The board has failed us."

It is unclear how much of the $1,300 each family deposited for the trip can be refunded.

The trip was to be an exchange in which seven students would stay with families in a small village in southern France. This spring, a group of French students would come to Crofton Woods.

But concerns about issues from supervision to language barriers, from cost to the small number of children going -- generally the same concerns the board had a month ago -- led the board to kill the trip.

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

Board member Thomas E. Florestano of Crofton, who favors the trip, missed that meeting. He asked that the issue be revived for yesterday's agenda.

He and Michael Pace of Edgewater, another trip supporter who was not at the Jan. 8 meeting, voted for the trip yesterday. But board member Paul G. Rudolph of Severna Park, who voted in favor of the trip Jan. 8, changed his mind and voted against it yesterday.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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