Some DODDS field trips may be a no-go
January 30, 2007
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Whether some Department of Defense Dependents Schools pupils get to take part in that traditional school-year highlight — the field trip — may depend on when their teachers scheduled the outings.
For instance, Eileen Carlin’s kindergarten class at The Sullivans school went to the Enoshima Aquarium this fall — but now, field trip funding for that school has dried up.
Some DODDS schools suspended curricular field trips this month due to budget cuts across the region, said Charles Steitz, spokesman for the Pacific Department of Defense Education Activity.
“Reductions have been made throughout the Pacific that affect all the schools and support divisions,” Steitz stated in an e-mail. “There may have been instances where schools have suspended student trips for this reason.”
In the DODDS Japan District, teachers were informed this month that scheduled trips were on hold and that the schools would be compiling prioritized field trip lists to turn into the district’s transportation office.
Yokota High School principal Richard Schlueter surmised Friday that approval likely will be granted on a case-by-case basis.
“It’s just a case of where the monies are and utilizing the funding toward the best resources for the students,” Schlueter said.
South Korea and Okinawa districts have not suspended field trips but DODDS Okinawa spokesman Henry Meyer said, “We have told people that the budget is tight and to be pretty careful.”
While each DODDS district has individual budget oversight, the Pacific priority is “to ensure our teachers and students have the best classroom materials,” Steitz said.
The news came as a surprise to Sullivans School teacher Angelia Devezin, who every year has taken her third-grade class to an off-base science exhibit of “How the Earth Changes.”
Field trips aren’t “blow off” days, she said.
“Sure, the kids look forward to them — we’re doing something exciting outside the classroom,” Devezin said. “You can learn about science in books, but seeing it firsthand goes a long way towards understanding. This is how the kids really grasp these concepts.”
Carlin said the possibility of no field trips is disappointing but the alternative could be worse.
“Losing field trips is better than losing a teacher or an aide,” she said. “The money has to come from somewhere.”
Carlin recalled another time in her DODDS career when field trips were pulled in wartime, in England during The Gulf War. “But it was for security reasons, not financial,” she said.
While budget cuts are a fact of life, Yokosuka parent Rhonda Dimirack said she wished children didn’t have to suffer by giving up their field trips. She has two children in elementary school and one in high school.
“Field trips can involve the parents and in Japan, can really further the cultural understanding,” Dimirack said. “It’s too bad they won’t have these positive experiences.”
Vince Little, David Allen and T.D. Flack contributed to this report.