Community bands together to restore students’ field trips

RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — Fond memories for many adults come from their field trips as elementary students.

For some children, the school-sponsored excursion may be their only opportunity to see the world outside their hometown.

For all students, the field trip creates an immersion experience connecting them to classroom studies.

Because of state funding issues in 2012-13, Russellville youngsters lost out on a year’s field trip.

Among those were Jamie Sullivan’s then-kindergartner, Lawson, who would have experienced his first field trip.

To make sure Lawson and the other Russellville students were able to have field trips this school year, Sullivan and nearly 40 other parents joined together with a single purpose — raise enough funds to cover bus driver wages and mileage for every class.

“So many parents really wanted to see them come back,” Sullivan said.

A 5K event in October, combined with an outpouring of businesses and community donations, quickly surpassed the goal of $2,500.

That means first-graders are headed to the Rock Bridge High School planetarium in Columbia, second-graders to the Runge Nature Center, third-graders to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Museum, fifth-graders will explore a cave, and kindergartners will have an adventure at Flipz Gym in Columbia.

The district will cover the fourth-graders’ traditional visit to the Capitol as part of their Missouri history studies.

“Our PTO has been very supportive of our school throughout the years, but did not have the funds to add this project to the things they were already doing,” said Elementary Principal Karen Ponder. “I think this is just another example of the outstanding support our small community has for our school.”

Sullivan and the other parents, as well as the school administrators, hope the state transportation funding will be restored for the next school year, so that ongoing fundraising projects won’t be necessary.

Last school year, Russellville spent $258,000 on transportation with only $71,000 reimbursement from the state transportation formula, which is supposed to be 75 percent. This scenario has been going on for the past several school years.

“Our district must make up the $180,000 difference in transportation from other funds that could be used in other instructional areas,” said Superintendent Jerry Hobbs. “As a result of reduced funding by the state, we (also) have reduced two bus routes … to control transportation costs in our district.”

The parents have a Facebook page and plans ready to host another event in the fall, if needed.

As a former first-grade teacher, Sullivan said she has seen the impact the outings have.

“It’s so amazing to take these kids out and make connections with what you’ve been working with all year,” she said. “Hands-on activities are one of the greatest learning experiences — to see, touch and do.”

Apparently, the community also recognized the value of field trips.

Mid-Missouri businesses responded generously. Russellville residents without children in school gave, too.

And then, some of the bus drivers volunteered their services.

“I was surprised,” Sullivan said. “I couldn’t believe what was important to a couple of us was also so important to so many more. I’m thankful and excited to see how everyone wanted this happen.”

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