EAST GREENWICH—The school committee met Tuesday night at Cole Middle School to briefly lay out a roadmap for moving forward with the established budget for next year and to clarify for the public the actions it is taking in sorting out the funding of field trips ,which, according to a RIDE guidance document issued earlier this year, cannot be funded through direct fees.

“It’s all about field trips,” committee member Anne Musella joked before getting to the nuts and bolts of the steps that the committee has taken to ensure the most equitable policies on field trip funding possible. “Since we last met, the policy subcommittee has had two special meetings, and in one we discussed the field trip policy and in the other we discussed related funding and student activity accounts and policies.”

“Really, the upshot is that the policy committee does think that it is a good idea to hold a field trip policy workshop, and to lay out what the timetable is, and how we address school club trips, which is an issue because it impacts how we define field trips. So that’s the big question.”

The issue of defining trips as field trips or club trips has become an integral one for the district as the RIDE guidance issued determined that any expanded educational enhancement trip must be funded by the school district, while those trips taken by private school clubs or organized by parent groups are not restrained in soliciting funds.

To address the issue, the policy subcommittee will open up questions on the RIDE guidance to submit to the new RIDE Commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green, for further clarification on how the district can best move forward in organizing the budget.

“In terms of the timetable, we want to have the workshop next Tuesday,” Musella said. “It will allow us to answer fundraising questions that we can discuss with our council and stakeholders. It will be a chance to highlight the issues and how they are implemented. We want to make sure we are all on the same page.”

A public workshop will be opened to members of the community on Tuesday, June 11, at Cole Middle School to ask questions, raise concerns and receive clarification on the options available to the district in organizing the agreed upon budget for FY20.

For clarity, the FY20 budget has been established and will not change. What may change is how the line items within the budget are categorized to allow for effective funding of numerous objectives, including field trips.

“We look forward to the workshop on the 11th,” said committee vice-chair Lori McEwen, “where we can get many more questions answered.”

The current hurdle for the district, and thus for the committee, will be drafting a plan for how funds should be organized to get local schools out of the field trip purgatory they have been placed in due to a lack of clarity as to how funds for field trips both should and must be gathered, accounted for and spent.

Regardless of the current lack of clarity, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the committee expressed a firm dedication to finding the best possible route out of the darkness.

“Right now, we are in limbo as a district, and we feel we need to provide a clear guidance,” Musella said. “We are exploring every mechanism possible. Our goal is to offer as many opportunities to as many students as possible, but we need to do it carefully and thoughtfully.”

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