Some determined parents in Oakdale’s parent teacher organizations have banned together to save sixth grade Outdoor Education from the Oakdale Joint Unified School District’s budgetary chopping block.
An action item to possibly suspend Outdoor Education for the 2010-2011 school year at the regular May meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees prompted a concerned and vocal group of parents involved in the elementary schools’ parent teacher organizations to attend and take to the podium for public comments, giving the board their thoughts and ideas about preserving the program. After hearing from the parents, the board agreed to table the item but noted that they were up against a commitment timeline to the county.
Now, Sierra View Elementary School Parent Teacher Club past president Holly Larsen is heading up a special parent committee to raise money for the Outdoor Education program.
“All four of our (elementary) schools are going to work together,” Larsen said.
The newly-formed committee consists of two or more representatives from each of Oakdale’s elementary schools’ parent teacher organizations. Larsen told the school trustees at the recent regular June board meeting that the parents appreciated the board not cutting the program and giving the PTCs the opportunity to keep it going.
The June meeting agenda showed that the cost per student for Outdoor Ed will be $221. Parents will be asked to pay the entire cost of their child’s participation, but for students who want to attend and cannot afford it, those costs fall to the responsibility of the district. This is where the parent teacher organizations are stepping in and will have to come up with monies that will be donated to the district’s general fund and earmarked to cover these costs, as well as teacher stipends for the program.
Larsen reported that the new committee members have met and have come up with a number of good fundraising ideas, with the first happening in early September that will be similar to the firefighters’ “fill the boot,” but this will be called “fill the backpack.”
At the May board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Barbara Shook reported that it would cost the district approximately $50,000 to cover just the educational component it’s required to pay, which is roughly half of the total amount for students to attend the outdoor education program. According to the June agenda information, the total 2010-2011 costs will be just over $92,000.
Larsen said that the PTC and PTA clubs have already been paying a large portion of Outdoor Ed costs through Jog-A-Thon funds. Now, she said, that by working together, they believe they can raise enough to cover the balance that the school district paid.
“We want to make sure all the kids can go,” Larsen said, adding that they also want fifth and sixth graders to be a part of the fundraising efforts because they need to know that they can also make an impact.
Larsen is confident that the combined efforts of the parent clubs will have a big payoff.
“I think we’ll be able to raise so much money that we won’t have to dip into our ‘Jog’ fund," she said. “…We could end up collecting (enough) funds and then (also) fund something else really important. This is something we have to do together.”
The district had to commit to the Master Agreement with the county around the same time as the regular June board meeting, in which a part of it is the guarantee of the number of Oakdale students who will attend Outdoor Ed next year. However, the money for Outdoor Ed is not due until late spring of 2011.
Larsen said that the next meeting of the new combined parent club committee for Outdoor Ed will be at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27 at Pizza Plus. For anyone who’s interested in donating to Outdoor Education, contact Larsen at (209) 968-2515 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will provide instructions.