Hortonville middle-schoolers to visit California, D.C.
By Scott Bellile
The Hortonville School Board approved three out-of-state study trips for Fox West Academy charter school students to take place during the 2015-2016 academic year, but not without some debate.
At its board meeting Aug. 24, FWA asked the board for permission to take the class trips its middle school students have taken since the academy’s founding in 2011. The three trips are as follows:
• The sixth-grade class of approximately 26 students plus three chaperones will travel to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center to study the natural world from Sept. 28-30. The cost of the trip per participant will be $132, and transportation will be $1,432.60.
• Approximately 22 seventh-grade students plus four chaperones will fly to Washington, D.C., Nov. 7-11 to learn history and politics. The cost of that trip will be $500 per student.
• The eighth-grade class of approximately 24 youth plus four chaperones will fly to San Francisco May 5-10, 2016, to study history, geography and society. That trip will be $550 per student.
Board member Craig Dreier stated from the beginning he would vote against the three trips.
“It’s just my belief that to take time off during the school year, to me, is not appropriate,” Dreier said. “I understand, I see some of the things that they would learn here, but I just don’t believe in it. That’s all I have to say about all three.”
The board then fell silent. Board member Bob Van Den Elzen invited FWA staff member Jennifer Koenecke to justify taking the trips.
Koenecke said at Wolf Ridge the students will learn area geography and pioneering for a reasonable cost. She couldn’t find an overnight trip closer to home that was comparable in price and offered overnight team-building trips.
Hortonville Middle School Principal Steve Gromala jumped in to add the sixth-graders learn more than science.
“These kiddos are brand new to the Fox West Charter School environment, and the teambuilding is just huge,” Gromala said. “It’s a huge component of developing that team as they’re going to be learning together in very close-knit family-like learning environment over the next three years.”
“We have definitely found a significant difference in the relationships of the grade that have gone and the ones that have not gone,” she said.
The FWA Governance Council and families will fundraise to keep the costs low to participants. No child will be left behind if he or she wishes to take the trip but cannot afford it, Gromala said.
“For many of the kids, they’ll never have this opportunity,” Gromala said about traveling. “There’s often a belief that kids who go to the charter school are kids who have a lot of financial resources, their families are perhaps wealthy. That’s not necessarily the case.”
The board approved the trip 5-1 with Dreier voting against.
After the meeting, Gromala said he expects board members to raise questions about the schools’ activities and the board does a fine job.
Other items approved
• A universal starting aide rate of pay of $13.66 per hour has been established for all new incoming aides. This is an average of the previous starting rates of $13.03 for playground aides and $14.29 for instructional aides. Benefits have been standardized across the groups. The change is cost neutral but could provide the district small savings.
• All substitute aides will be paid $13 per hour regardless of the position they are subbing in. The rate will not see a cost of living increase until it is reviewed in the future, and this rate will provide some savings to the district.
• “Experienced” and “inexperienced” pay categories have been eliminated for all starting food service employees. All first-level helpers and servers in food service will now be hired at $14.01, which will provide the district cost savings.
• An agreement is set that the school district will pay the Village of Hortonville to employ village police officer Ryan Geenen as a part-time school resource officer at three Hortonville Area School District schools. Geenen’s benefits and wages will come out to $25,131.38 during the 2015-2016 academic year at an hourly rate of $34.15, according to the wage schedule.
This article was revised on Feb. 24, 2016, to correct officer Ryan Geenen’s hourly pay and salary.