Sunday, August 22, 2004

Students get up to 10 days for field trips

By Karen Gutierrez
Enquirer staff writer

Thanks to a new state law, Kentucky students have permission to miss up to 10 days of school a year for "educational enhancement opportunities."

The absences must be counted as excused by school officials, and students must be given a chance to make up missed work.

Principals are free to set their own rules for what they will consider educational trips, but students who are denied will have the chance to appeal to superintendents.

The law cites several examples of what legislators had in mind: performances or real-world experiences involving social studies, science, English, math or foreign language.

"I think it's a great idea," said Katlin Rust, a sophomore at Scott High School.

Katlin is involved with The Junior State of America, a nonpartisan organization that gives young people exposure to national politics.

This summer, she traveled to Boston with the organization to attend the Democratic National Convention.

"The Republican one is at the end of August, when most students are in school," Katlin said. "That was one of the main reasons that held me back from going to both of them to compare and contrast. I had to go to school, and I couldn't miss any days."

Principals that grant such absences will not be penalized with a reduction in state funding, which is based on daily student attendance.

Still, they're not thrilled.

"It makes a huge nightmare for principals, because (families) can claim anything is an educational trip, and it could be a trip to the Bahamas with parents," said Tracy Lamb, principal of Grant County High School.

She and others in Kentucky's high-school principals association have written a model policy designed to prevent such abuses. The group is encouraging schools to adopt it through their site-based councils.

The policy defines "educational" in part as trips sponsored by groups, not parents, and requires students to submit itineraries in advance.

Mark Krummen, principal of Walton-Verona High School, said he's already planning such a rule.



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