School Committee to vote on new field trip rules

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WESTBROOK — The school board next week will take a look at an amended field trip policy that requires teachers to give more notice to administators and parents about how the trip fits into the curriculum and strengthens safety measures on field trips involving bodies of water.

“We haven’t looked at our field trip policy for a while, so it was time to do that,” Superintendent Peter Lancia said.

Last spring, a 13-year-old Lewiston Middle School student drowned durng a school trip to Range Pond State Park in Poland.

“It also made sense in light of that unfortunate event,” Lancia said. “We hate to be reactionary, but it made sense to review it.”

The policy was most recently discussed at a policy committee meeting Nov. 26 and will be before the full School Committee for action Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The current policy was adopted in 1962 and revised five times since, most recently in January 2010.

“We believe field trips and enrichment trips can enhance learning and are an extension of the classroom,” he said.

If the policy is adopted, teachers and staff will have to submit their trip request to administrators at least a month in advance. Increasing that time from the current two weeks, Lancia said, gives more opportunity for school staff to review the trip’s ties to instruction and gives parents more time to decide if the trip is appropriate for their child. It also provides ample notice for school nurses to review what medication or special care may be needed while students are out.

The amendment also lays out how many chaperones are needed and how trips to water parks or bodies of water are handled. Trip leaders, per the draft of policy language, need to review safety precautions of the site they are visiting. Students are required to wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket or have proof they are able to swim.

Lancia said Westbrook is unique in that for the last 25 years all third-graders have taken a quarter of water safety at the Davan Pool at the Westbrook Community Center.

The policy committee at their November meeting also reviewed the tobacco use and possession policies for students, staff and visitors, particularly with a focus on adding language dealing with vaping and e-cigarettes. Lancia said as a result of updating the tobacco use policy, the school committee may also look to review its drug and alcohol policies as well.

Reviewing policies that deal with student safety has been focus of the policy committee this year, he said.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

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