After months of discussion, the District 233 school board decided it would review its 20-plus year practice of approving field trips.
In the mean time, the board decided to continue its standard practice of voting on Homewood-Flossmoor High School out-of-state trips.
Superintendent Von Mansfield told the board at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Jan. 29, that he thought the policy had been in place since the early 1990s. He said the reason for the vote wasn’t the cost.
“It’s not the money. The money is allocated and applied for,” by sports teams, he said. It was the location that got each trip onto the board’s agenda.
H-F students travel greater distances going to competitions in southern Illinois than they do going to schools in northwest Indiana, Mansfield said, but under the current policy it’s the Indiana trip that has to be approved because students cross state lines.
Board President Steve Anderson agreed that the policy could use a review.
“It requires a little more discussion when 90 percent of our field trips we never hear about,” Anderson said.
The board also directed the superintendent to list each trip for approval as a separate item, but to eliminate all the miscellaneous costs the teams will incur. If board members want additional information, it can be provided in a board memo or email.
Past practice was to list the group requesting approval and the location of the trip. For example, in October 2017 the board approved trips to Indiana and Wisconsin for the fencing teams; trips to Indiana, St. Louis and Atlanta for the H-F Steppers; and a trip to Phoenix for the girls basketball team.
Resident Peter Hallam asked at that meeting why certain teams got approval. Athletic Director Dan Vosnos said all teams are given the opportunity to travel and all requests are reviewed and approved by him.
In November, the board approved trips to Indiana, California and Ohio for the girls track and field team; to California for the boys track and field team; and to Ohio for the girls basketball team.
Hallam again raised issues about the trips, saying the costs weren’t itemized. He wanted greater transparency on what the board was paying.
When the expenses were itemized, they showed that in many cases the students and/or parents paid the majority of the out-of-state travel. For example, the Vikings girls track team meet at Youngstown State University in the spring will cost $1,940 of which $1,068 was raised by the students.
To answer concerns, in January the athletic department itemized all expenses for field trips needing board approval. The girls track and field trip to California was cancelled and instead the team will compete in the Midwest Team Challenge in Paducah, Kentucky. The report listed the estimated food cost, the name of the hotel and cost of the rooms and the transportation, which included use of H-F mini buses.
Board members said they aren’t looking for that much detail.
Board member Debbie Berman said the agenda should include the school’s cost. She wants enough information “to put the cost in perspective so people can understand what students are raising or what the parents are paying out of pocket,” noting often what the school is paying is a small portion.
“How much it was is important, but missing school is the thing for me,” said board member Annette Bannon.