The Kingston City School District’s Board of Education late last month approved a 10-day student trip to Europe for July 2024, with some trustees expressing unease about not knowing who will be going.
“According to the policy, we’re supposed to have the names of the persons attending,” said Patricia Lowe during the School Board meeting held on September 28. “And on the paper (teacher and band director Stephen Garner) sent in, it said current 10th and 11th graders.”
Superintendent Paul Padalino said the district’s policy made it difficult to plan trips like the one proposed, which would see students take a musical history tour through the Czech Republic, Austria and Italy.
“They don’t have a trip to approve yet,” Padalino said. “They don’t have a trip to put names to at this point.”
Garner said it was necessary to get the ball rolling now to lock in pricing with the travel company, EF Tours, and then gauge student interest.
“What I’m targeting is 10th and 11th graders, and they (juniors) will have just graduated,” Garner said. “I just wanted a little more mature group to go to Europe. I am open to lowering that but we’re looking to go right after graduation.”
Garner added that a dozen students participated in a similar trip this past summer that was deemed a success. “Though that trip was different because it was canceled for two years (due to the global COVID-19 pandemic).”
Garner said that the trip being planned for nearly two years from now will allow for fundraising and other initiatives, particularly important because they don’t want kids who are interested in participating to miss out if their families can’t afford to send them.
“This last trip…it wasn’t fundraising that got three or four of those kids there, it was donations and it was donations through staff members at the high school,” Garner said, adding that students also help other students out.
“Students fundraise for their own account,” Garner said. “And most of these seniors will say to me, ‘Can you take this $100 that I raised and put it in a fund to help kids?”
Garner added that fundraising help also often comes from EF Tours, the KHS band, and other places. “We’ve done that forever.” he said. “When we went to Florida, we sent 25 kids one year and I think I raised $5,000 just by sending an email out to our high school staff, and that’s not even going into the community and saying, ‘Hey, we could, we could use this.’”
Garner said the timing also allows for passports to be arranged for kids who don’t already have one. “Oh, we had to do all that (in the past), Garner said. “When I run a trip, I usually run it really tight…I wouldn’t let them get on the bus at Kingston High School without their passport. They couldn’t.”
Garner agreed to provide the Board of Education with the names of students as soon as they are confirmed. He added that he was planning to meet with the travel company.