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'You’re punishing the kids for the parents'

• Apr 10, 2018 at 10:00 PM

WILLARD — The Willard board of education is seeking another solution to preventing children from going on field trips when they have unpaid school fees.

Mandy Thompson with the Elementary parent-teacher group (PTG) went before the board Monday night to ask for another way to encourage families to pay school fees after the group realized 10 to 20 students wouldn’t be able to attend a field trip because they had an outstanding bill with the school.

“We started that last year,” Superintendent Jeff Ritz said of the policy deeming students unable to attend any field trips unless they make a payment to the district.

“It hasn’t always been that way. But many students were not paying their school fees until their senior year in high school, then wanted to march but they can’t unless their fees are paid. (There were) a couple of them with over a couple thousand dollars due.”

Ritz and treasurer Cynthia Shoup noted this created budgetary problems with the schools. In fact, Ritz said the school went without any field trips for a few years because the district couldn’t afford it “and we knew families couldn’t afford it.”

“We have arranged if they make a minimum payment — that’s $5 — they can go and I can tell you every administrator in this room has paid fees for students to let them go,” Ritz said.

“I understand that,” Thompson said, adding she didn’t think the payment plan or punishing the students will help get the bills paid. 

“I just hate to punish children for parents not taking care of their responsibility or because they don’t have the money. You know, people don’t always have the circumstances. These kids don’t understand.”

Thompson said not only are those students missing out on the lesson prepared for them by teachers, but she said it affects them emotionally and psychologically.

“There needs to be a solution but these are the kids more than any other kids in the school that need it most,” she said. “I would rather send those 10 to 15 kids instead of the 100 others on this field trip because are the ones that need it. ... And the parents, they don’t care. They don’t care that the result is that the child doesn’t get to go.”

Board vice president Marsha Danhoff agreed.

“I have a problem with that too. Those kids are being singled out,” she said. “I think we need to figure something else out because these kids are still so little. We need something different for the real, real little kids compared to the older kids. My main concern is what we’re doing to these kids. ... We’re telling them they’re not as good as the others because they can’t pay for it.

“I think you’re punishing the kids for the parents. I don’t think it’s fair. I think maybe there needs to be a threshold based on the grade.”

“We’re adding a stigmatism to that kid,” president Chris Rothhaar said.

Ritz said this setup was “never” ideal, but was what the district came up with when it collaborated with other area schools.

Other schools we all sat down and talked about this and this was the solution most of us came up with.

“I’d be more than happy though to sit down with you and try to figure out another plan. I’m open to another solution,” he said.

Thompson said she will be scheduling an appointment to set up a meeting for further discussion, which Rothhaar and Danhoff said they would like to be a part of.

“It’s just different for elementary kids. We can’t have them do that,” she said. “I would just like to see a different solution. I guess I just want to know if there’s something else that we can withhold instead of field trips.”

In other board happenings, the board congratulated teacher Kyle von Kamp on receiving the Ohio Daughters of the American Revolution’s History Teacher of the Year award. The award earns von Kamp, who organizes the annual eighth-grade civil war reenactment, a nomination for a nationwide award of the same category. 

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