Funding for computers, playground equipment, musical instruments and much more will be cut this year at most elementary school sites because they will be using those funds for outdoor education instead after the district made a decision two years ago to cut funding for outdoor education.
Each elementary school site has decided that outdoor education is a priority and in order for their sixth graders to go they will have to re-prioritize their funds as well as seek private donations to raise between $15,000 to $27,000, depending on the number of sixth graders at their site.
“For those who haven’t experienced outdoor education, you don’t know how valuable of an education it is and you can’t get that education in a classroom,” said Karen Grenbeaux, third grade teacher at Brown Elementary School.
The TUSD Board of Trustees made the decision to cut district funding for outdoor education two years ago with a one-year delay making the cut effective in the 2010/2011 school year, said Sonny Da Marto, TUSD superintendent. The cut will save the district about $150,000 and is an on-going cut as of this time.
Each school site will have to find funds for up to 135 sixth graders costing $200 per student to attend outdoor education. Most school sites are using funds from their Title I and Medi-Cal Administrative Activities funding with some additional fundraising. Other sites are basing their fundraising plan strictly off of private donations and fundraisers.
Wakefield Elementary School is using only Title I funds of $15,000 to use for sixth graders to attend outdoor education with no need for additional funding. If they didn’t use the Title I funding for outdoor education, that money could have been used for instructional materials, technology, tutorial, student incentives and other activities.
Julien Elementary School’s plan has the majority outdoor education funds coming from fundraising and donations. They have to raise $25,200 and plan to take $5,000 from Title I and MAA funds. They are hoping to raise $10,500 in a Parent Teacher Association fall fundraiser; $5,200 from their Outdoor Education Committee fundraisers that consist of car washes, spaghetti dinners and family movie nights; and they hope to raise $4,000 in donations. Even with the majority of their funds coming from fundraisers and private donations, that money could have been used for computers, library books and field trips.
“It turns my stomach a bit to see that sites are giving up things like after-school tutoring,” said Frank Lima, TUSD Board of Trustees president.
Despite the things school sites are giving up, most say outdoor education is worth it.
“The value that these kids get from this experience is worth the money spent,” said Eileen Hamilton, TUSD trustee.
Ryan Hollister, a science teacher at Turlock High School, said that for most of the students that come into his classroom, the only background they have in science is outdoor education.
“For about 85 to 90 percent of my students, the only background of information they have of touching a rock or going to the mountains was from sixth grade camp,” he said.
Many teachers who attended Tuesday’s TUSD Board of Trustees meeting voiced their opinion that the district should continue to fund the outdoor education to avoid parents feeling “inferior” for a lack of personal funds for their child to attend outdoor education or asking for donations from others.
“If it is important curriculum, it should be funded by the district,” said Dale Wallace, first grade teacher at Brown Elementary School.
Those interested in making donations to the TUSD elementary schools for outdoor education or more information about fundraising events, should contact the individual schools.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.