Annual Eagle Bluff trip for Northfield Middle School students may change - Northfield MN: News

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Annual Eagle Bluff trip for Northfield Middle School students may change

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Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 6:00 pm | Updated: 11:34 pm, Tue Dec 11, 2012.

Most people in the Northfield School District agree that increasing enrollment at Northfield Middle School (NMS) is a good thing.

But it also presents a challenge when it comes to one hot-button issue: the annual Eagle Bluff trip.

“On behalf of Northfield Middle School and Community Services, we just want to make sure people are aware of the dilemmas that are coming up due to a very good thing — increase in the size of the seventh grade class,” said Jeff Pesta, NMS principal. “We may have to change the way we do the trip to Eagle Bluff.”

Eagle Bluff, an Environmental Learning Center (ELC), where NMS seventh graders have been going on an annual trip for nearly a decade, does not have the available space to accommodate the larger seventh grade class coming through next year in one trip. Since class size will prompt a change in the way the trip is planned, this is an opportunity to address another concern: lost instructional days, according to Pesta.

“We are recommending something we’ve thought through from both perspectives,” said Pesta. “We believe there is a way to get the value of this trip without sacrificing instructional days.”

Erin Mayberry, director of Community Services, and Pesta presented their recommendation to the school board Monday night with three main possibilities going forward.

The three main options presented were:

• NMS using a lottery system, drawing names to see which students can attend. With this option, not all students interested in the trip would be allowed to go.

• NMS organizing two separate trips to Eagle Bluff to accommodate the larger class, which would result in more missed instructional days and heightened transportation costs.

• NMS handing the Eagle Bluff trip over to Community Services to organize and host outside of regular instructional time, with the possibility of the trip happening during the summer or other scheduled school breaks.

Pesta and Mayberry recommended that NMS collaborate with Community Services to organize the Eagle Bluff trip in the future.

“[The Eagle Bluff trips] have been phenomenal; this is by no means a recommendation that indicates dissatisfaction in past trips or how they have been organized,” said Pesta. “In all of our proposals, we are recommending that we utilize Community Services because running a trip like this is more in line with what they do.”

“The recommendation in the packet is Community Services hosts the Eagle Bluff trip or ELC experience,” said Mayberry. “We have the capability for online registration and an office that is staffed to handle in-person or mail-in registration. An example of a similar occurrence is [Community Services] taking over the high school ski club. It has streamlined the registration process and lightened the burden on the high school office.”

Pesta and Mayberry discussed other benefits of running the program through Community Services, including: incorporating more students into the experience from other Northfield schools and no missed instructional days during the school year due to the trip.

“When they placed this program in the middle school, I was not here,” Pesta said. “It was a different era and environment with different expectations. For better or worse, things have changed. The middle school wasn’t required to do the things they are now. We realize that no matter what decision is made, there will be supporters and critics.”

Katrina Meehan addressed the board during the community comment segment of the meeting on behalf of herself and fellow NMS teachers — Earl Weinmann, Jan Ensrud, Amy Allin, Cathy Penning, Rose Turnacliff, Lisa Hovden, Craig Croone and Chris O’Neill — in regards to Eagle Bluff. Meehan said she’d like to see the Eagle Bluff trip for the seventh grade class to continue to occur during school days as part of the regular curriculum.

Some things about the Eagle Bluff trip would remain the same if organized through Community Services: there would still be the opportunity for teaching staff to be paid chaperons; and because the program has been running through middle school for so many years, Mayberry says Community Services would “look to have a middle school coordinator to help us with the organization.”

Mayberry said a potential drawback for Community Services organizing the trip could be that if not enough registrants enrolled to make the trip effective, it would be canceled.

“Community Services wouldn’t take a loss to make the trip happen,” she said.

There have been no decisions made and no options eliminated, and the issue is now waiting on feedback from the community and the school board to move forward.

“We are in a position to leave everything as it is, but before we make that choice we need to know exactly what that choice means,” said superintendent Chris Richardson. “This is one that the board is going to have to weigh in on. This is going to be a change even if we keep it as is. We are going to need to deal with the fact that we will need a new strategy.”

Reach reporter Ashley Klemer at 645-1115 or follow her on @AshleyKlemer.

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  • parentvoice posted at 10:17 am on Thu, Dec 13, 2012.

    parentvoice Posts: 468

    Katrina Meehan is one of the most dedicated teachers at NMS, at least in my experience. I would take her views very seriously going forward...

  • DUNDAS MOM posted at 3:33 pm on Wed, Dec 12, 2012.

    DUNDAS MOM Posts: 4

    My 7th grader just went on this 3 day trip this past October....Loved it!
    I hope this is still in place when my younger child is in 7th grade!

  • Hopeful posted at 10:27 am on Wed, Dec 12, 2012.

    Hopeful Posts: 251

    Why do the students need to go to Eagle Bluff for a full week? Why no tutilize the Nature Center in Faribault or the Boy Scout Camp in Cannon Falls for a few days? I am sure both these facilities could accomodate the class size and put on a great program.


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