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Should Gower Students Get Trips to Great America?

The Gower School District eliminated its annual trip to the amusement park, but parents argued at a board meeting this week that the trip was a "tradition" and great for bonding.

At the same meeting where they questioned the possible elimination of the traditional sixth-grade White Pines Ranch trip, parents in  also expressed concerns about the recent decision to eliminate the end of the year eighth-grade outing to Great America.

“It kind of seems like books have already been turned back in by the time they go to Great America,” parent G’nee Andrulis said Tuesday night. “For the benefit the students get, I’m not sure we’re losing a whole lot in terms of education.

“If it’s a tradeoff of classroom time versus other time, I think there’s a lot of benefit to be had by that last bit of bonding that group gets before they head off into the big world,” she said.

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The recommendation by the sixth grade team at  to eliminate the Great America trip was presented to the board last month.

Superintendent Steve Griesbach said with a full schedule of year-end activities for the eighth graders, the trip to the amusement park was viewed as unnecessary.

“There are a number of celebratory things that go on the eighth-grade year between a softball game, a picnic, an eighth-grade dance and also a really very formal graduation ceremony,” he said. “There were lots of ways we recognize and celebrate our eighth graders.”

With all of the activities, there is a nearly a week of celebration, he said.

“I think the more celebration the better, because these kids work really hard. They all look forward to this, it’s been a tradition...,” parent Melissa Metcalf said.

Metcalf said while the trip is a chance for the students to have fun, it is also a chance for them to see their teachers outside of the classroom environment.
Parent Michelle Fortuna, who graduated from Gower Middle School in 1985, said the Great America trip is one of her fondest memories. She said she would like her son, who is now in fourth grade, to be able to take the trip just as she did.

“It’s just something that’s been a Gower tradition forever, and to see it go - it’s pretty sad,” Fortuna said.

Board Secretary Young Ra-Hurka said she had no idea the Great America trip had such history.

“I think there’s also a benefit in maintaining some kind of tradition. We’re all about changing and progressing and meeting the new guidelines and criteria and all these things. But, I think there has to be some traditions that we value enough that we fight for it and we maintain it. And this may be one of those things worth having.”

Griesbach said the feedback will be provided to the class teams for further review.

In other news the board also set a tentative timeline for the selection of a new superintendent to fill the post when Griesbach retires at the end of July.

According to the schedule, representatives from the search firm B.W.P. and Associates will interview board members Aug. 29. Interviews and focus groups with teachers, staff, administrators and community members will likely take place in mid September.

At the Nov. 13 meeting, board members will receive a slate of six candidates selected by B.W.P. Interviews will be conducted Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

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