BENNINGTON — One Bennington School District board member raised the question last week whether the annual Nature's Classroom field trip, taken by the fifth grade at Monument Elementary, is unfair to the other schools who are unable to participate.
Board member Jackie Prue asked Monument principal Donna Cauley about the cost of the trip, who responded that the trip costs about $400 per student, and funds are largely raised by parents. "I'm glad you have a special group of parents," said Prue, "but I really, really feel that the students at Molly Stark and Benn-El need to have the same opportunities that you have in your school."
The Monument fifth grade has been on the trip, to Silver Lake, New York, each of the last three years. Bennington Elementary also went once, about four years ago. Outside of the Bennington School District, Woodford has been going on the trip for several years, and Shaftsbury went for the first time last year. Nature's Classroom is a week-long science and nature camp, in which students are able to participate in science-related activities all day. The trip typically happens during a school vacation week.
"I think it's a remarkable field trip and opportunity for children," said Cauley, who said the trip was spearheaded each year by the parents. Board member Jackie Kelly interjected to suggest that the board budget for all three schools to attend the trip, which would eliminate the issue. The board members agreed to ask SVSU Chief Financial Officer Rick Pembroke to try to find the required money, so that all fifth graders in BSD could go on the trip. No contingencies were discussed, should the money not be available.
"To me in my mind, it doesn't seem fair," said Prue, "that we leave out two schools and one school gets to do this three years in a row. I don't think the kids at Molly have ever done it."
The Bennington School Board meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the either music room at Bennington Elementary, the auditorium at Monument Elementary, or the library of the Molly Stark School, depending on the month. Full recordings of the meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.