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Bronxville Parents Upset 2nd-Grade Trip Cancelled

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. –  Some Bronxville Elementary School parents are upset over the recent cancellation of an overnight farm visit for second-graders - a tradition for more than 25 years - and are blaming the school administration for cutting school programs without input from parents.

School officials, however, said it was a decision by teachers to replace the traditional two-night-away trip for next year’s second-graders with a more contemporary and appropriate day trip.

Until this year’s class of first-graders, Bronxville Elementary has had a system of “looping” teachers to classes, to enable the group to remain with the same teacher through second grade. As part of the curriculum, beginning in first grade, the teachers would begin discussions about a two-night-away visit by students to an upstate farm that would occur in the latter half of second grade, parents said.

Accompanied only by teachers and school staff, the trip provided a hands-on experience of farm life, fostered community building and was a rite of passage, because for most pupils, it was their first trip without parents, several parents said. They added that the school did away with “looping” a year ago, while assuring parents the farm visit would not be affected by it.

At a May 9 meeting, Elementary School Principal Thomas Wilson and teachers reportedly informed parents that next year’s trip had been cancelled and would be replaced with a day trip. Reading from a detailed prepared statement, the teachers noted their own fond memories of the trip, but added, “While we also value the importance of tradition and understand that this trip has been a “rite of passage” for second-graders in this community, the experience has changed over time.”

“It was one of the things that got us so excited about the schools when we first moved here 14 years ago,” said Liz Dutton. “It was one of the most wonderful experiences for my two older kids. But my first-grader will now not get to experience it.”

“This is a tradition, a legacy of the school that high school kids write about in essays and graduates headed off to college talk about,” she added.

Nicole Lynch, who moved to Bronxville for its schools three years ago and has a daughter in first grade, said she was upset because she felt school officials “lied last year.”

“When we visited the school, the farm experience was something they boasted about, along with foreign language in kindergarten and 'looping,'” Lynch said. “All three are gone, and my daughter has not experienced any of them.  As a parent, I have to have my antenna up as to the school, as I wonder whether this is a community I am going to be in for the next 12 years.”

The school’s principal said the decision by teachers to do away with the trip was based on safety, health and curriculum-related issues. Prior trips had to be cut short, rescheduled or faced other logistical issues due to weather conditions and other reasons, he added.

“It was not a quorum or a majority, but a unanimous decision upon consultation of the entire primary school faculty that it has passed its usefulness,” Wilson said. “I did not cancel the trip. This is not an administrative decision, nor something in my purview to offer or cancel. It is beautiful that the school has enjoyed it for a long time, and it was similarly a unanimous decision to do it, in the past.”

Still, Dutton said, many parents feel the process by which the trip was eliminated was not transparent enough. They plan to address their concerns to the school board of trustees at their June meeting and would still like to work toward reinstating the trip, even though the reservation for the class has been cancelled.

To that extent, parents have created a “Save the Farm Trip” page on Facebook that has garnered the support of about 100 people, and numerous messages, including from alumni and other students who participated in the program. “The experience is something I vividly remember, and a story I carried with me into college. The Farm Trip is one of the best parts of the Bronxville experience, and shouldn't be changed one bit,” wrote a former student of his 1998 farm visit.

Jennifer Mackesy, chair of the school PTA’s Elementary School Council, said “numerous” meetings regarding the farm trip were held in small and large groups.

“Our hope is that parents feel they have been able to voice their concerns, have their questions answered, and gain a full understanding of the reasons surrounding this decision. While we cannot dictate an outcome, we will continue to listen to parent feedback and present recommendations where appropriate,” Mackesy said.

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