The Outdoor Education Program, also known as sixth grade science camp, was the subject of a report and public comments at the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees regular meeting on Aug. 12.
OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Kristi Rapinchuk delivered the report about the district’s long history of sending its sixth graders to science camp at Foothill Horizons. Her report evaluated the fiscal impacts of the existing program on school sites and potential options for cutting costs to deal with the ever-increasing camp fees.
Rapinchuk compared costs for the four-day program from 2010-2011 to the current school year. Each year, the cost has increased. It went from $221 per student in 2010-2011 to $234 this year. There is also a teacher/staff stipend of approximately $490 each. The district had provided $50 toward each student until 2010-2011 due to budget cuts. Then, the parents were asked to fundraise the entire cost of their child’s participation.
Rapinchuk said that Parent Teacher Clubs have done significant fundraising and that Jog-a-Thon earnings have been funding the students’ attendance at camp. However, the camp attendance costs for sixth graders alone takes nearly one-third of the funds raised. Each year the costs go up and therefore the PTCs contributions to other school needs goes down.
She noted that there are options to reduce the program to three days, two days, or one day and gave the costs for each of those options. The school district commits early in the school year to sending students to camp and if any changes are to be made, it must be done soon.
Trustee Tina Shatswell said she’s been approached by a couple of members from different PTCs and believes that most people don’t realize how much the costs have gone up in the past few years. She gave examples, noting that 367 kids went to camp last year at $231 each. For the same number of students to attend this year, it will cost nearly $86,000, or over $1,000 more than last year.
She said that nobody wants to cut the program but by going down to three days, it would reduce costs by over $11,000. She commended the PTCs for raising such large sums of money in this economy. She wants people to see the amount of money being spent and asked “what if” the PTCs can’t come up with all the money next year and there’s a large sum of money still needed. She stated that there is just under $90,000 being spent for one grade level.
“Are we doing the right thing as a district, even expecting the PTC members to come up with this money?” Shatswell asked.
Terri Taylor, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, said that there used to be a time when the district contributed $50 and the cost of the camp was $80. She added that there was one year where the school district did not send students to Outdoor Education because the economy was poor.
Some PTC parents stepped to the podium to comment. A fifth grade parent from Cloverland said her child raised $330 for Jog-a-Thon one year and that a lot of money is going toward kids who aren’t trying to help raise money. She said some kids came up and said their moms told them the PTC was going to pay for it and then gave $5 for a T-shirt.
“It’s hurting us because these children are not putting out the effort to raise money for sixth grade camp,” she said.
Another PTC mom said it was an effort to get sixth grade parents to step up last year at her school. The PTC offered extra fundraisers for the sixth graders and did pre-orders for T-shirt sales but still gave away about 20 percent to 30 percent of them. She said it’s a battle for PTCs because rumors go around that the PTCs will just pay for it all and the rumor has ruined it for everyone.
Another parent commented that it’s hard and frustrating as a parent because a lot of kids don’t do anything to help pay for themselves to go.
In other business, the new student member to the Board of Trustees took his oath of office. Trustee Shatswell swore in Dylan Hawksworth-Lutzow, a senior at Oakdale High School.
The next regular meeting of the OJUSD Board of Trustees is at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 9 at Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 N. Second Ave.