After a back-and-forth email correspondence yesterday, Superintendent Devon Horton and Nichols Middle School’s parents resolved a miscommunication about a planned trip that District 65 had canceled. The district eventually decided to move the trip.
Nichols’ parents received an email from Principal Marcus Wright on Jan. 14, stating that as a result of the Omicron Gulf, District 65 had decided to cancel the 8th grade civil rights trip to Alabama, which was scheduled to take place from 17 to 17. to be canceled by February 20.
The last-minute cancellation left the 36 parents who didn’t have travel insurance — and spent $1,500 on the trip — eligible for a refund from Brightspark Travel, the contracted travel agency that helped plan the trip.
Concerned about the financial impact on families and upset at the district’s lack of communication given the amount of time invested in planning the trip, parents emailed Horton and other school board members. They demanded that the district reinstate the trip for the original dates and provide clarification as to why the trip was delayed.
In his email responses, Horton was “very transparent,” said a parent of Nichols. The trip is being postponed and families whose children cannot attend the trip later this school year will be reimbursed, either by Brightspark Travel or by the district, if the travel agency declines, he wrote.
Horton also explained why the trip was postponed at the last minute, citing a series of missteps by both the school and the district. In particular, a misunderstanding as to whether the trip was classified as an “excursion” or a “privately organized trip” caused some confusion.
Under the School Board’s 6:240 Field Trip and Recreational Class Travel Policy, excursions outside a 200-mile radius of the school or at night require board approval.
While there were some talks about the trip earlier in the pandemic, the district believed the trip was no longer going ahead, according to Horton’s email. Instead, board members spoke to principals about possibly planning an in-state trip, open to all students, he wrote.
Meanwhile, the staff and parents planned the trip for February 2022 without board approval, and Dr. Horton was unaware that the trip would continue until Dec. 7, after the Nov. 15 repayment deadline, according to his email.
However, an email from a parent stated that the trip qualified as a privately organized trip, which is exempt from the school travel policy that requires board approval. Through email correspondence, Horton and the parent agreed that district policy is unclear.
School board members had planned to discuss the trip at the December 7 Curriculum/Policy Committee meeting, but decided to continue the discussion until more information was available, Horton explained in his email. At the time, the district was still planning to proceed with the trip, but it was in the process of getting formal approval, he wrote.
In light of the pandemic and the increasing number of Omicron cases, the district decided to postpone the trip: “It would be in bad shape, taste and leadership for such a trip to take place during the pandemic.”
The Nichols parent said the district has been “really responsive” and parents believe the whole situation could have been avoided if the district had communicated better with parents and teachers from the start.
“I wish it hadn’t all turned out this way,” said the parent. Given the time teachers put into planning the trip, developing a curriculum and working with families, the district’s last-minute decision-making without input from teachers has been disrespectful and unprofessional, she added.
“As our Chief Inspector, I take full responsibility for any communication gaps that may arise during this time,” Horton wrote in his email.
Horton also discussed the trip at a meeting of District 65’s Human Resources, Buildings and Lands Committee on Jan. 24, and said the district will work closely with families and teachers in the future to reschedule the trip and get the parents back. Pay.