Fun, yes, but educational? Hernando County School Board debates ski trip

After arguing about the academic value of the slopes, members decide mittens are in order.

Published December 19, 2006

BROOKSVILLE - It seemed like a minor item on the Hernando County School Board's 11-page agenda: approval of a high school field trip.

But this particular excursion - the Nature Coast Technical High School Ski Club's second annual venture to Breckenridge, Colo., for six days of winter fun starting the day after winter vacation ends - had already prompted angry calls to board members from residents.

So how educational would the ski trip be?

Just about every board member, as well as principal Margaret "Tizzy" Schoelles, had an opinion at Tuesday's board meeting.

Dianne Bonfield: "I find this to be basically a vacation. I can't see the academic rationale in this."

Schoelles: "We do have all kinds of educational activities. It's kind of interesting to see how long it takes to boil ramen noodles."

Jim Malcolm: "I think you can make all the rationales you want about it being an educational experience. But I don't think so."

John Sweeney: "I can see the value of the learning experience. I can definitely see the academic value, though it's hard to explain."

None of the board members appeared happy to have been approached for approval after the students had already raised funds and purchased airline tickets for the trip. No school funds are being used, officials said.

"If the kids want to go somewhere, they have an airline ticket," said Sandra Nicholson, arguing for the educational value of canceling the trip. "It's a lesson in economics."

Board attorney J. Paul Carland said the district could face liability for negligent supervision if something went wrong and might have to defend itself in a Colorado courtroom.

But in the end, the board approved the excursion by a 3-2 vote, with Bonfield and Nicholson in opposition.

"I'm sure it won't happen again," said Chairman Pat Fagan.

Tom Marshall can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarshall@sptimes.com.