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Schools wary of outings

October 15, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Tri-State area schools are using caution when sending students on field trips to the Washington, D.C., area in the wake of the recent sniper attacks.

The metropolitan area - where museums, parks and history abound - is a main target of field trips for local schools. Area school superintendents are mixed on cutting trips off and keeping enrichment on.

Among the 10 reported sniper shootings in suburban Washington was one Oct. 7 in which a 13-year-old boy was wounded outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Md., as his aunt dropped him off at the school.

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Washington County Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the county is treating each field trip separately and is carefully analyzing trips outside the county.

She said a trip to Crystal City, Va., has been canceled due to its proximity to sniper attacks, and a football game between Hancock and Maret School near Bethesda, Md., was canceled due to its location near the Capital Beltway.

"We certainly don't want to put any kids in harm's way," Morgan said.

She said Washington County Schools are doing advance work to see what schools in the field trip destination area are doing.

Morgan said parents seem to understand the school system's actions.

"I think adults also realize that kids need to carry on with daily routines, too," Morgan said.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Steven Nichols agreed with Morgan, saying in his district, schools are in daily contact with police and are trying to stay alert of the situation, but are not canceling all field trips to the nation's capital.

"We don't want to overly alarm children, so we're trying to find a middle ground," Nichols said.

He said Jefferson County Schools have no restrictions at this time and also are keeping tabs with metropolitan area schools to see what their stance is on letting kids step out of school for the day.

In Chambersburg, Pa., Schools Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said, "For all intents and purposes, this superintendent will not allow any field trips to the D.C. area until the sniper is caught."

Sponseller said the Chambersburg Area School District has had a procedure in effect since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that all field trips to New York City and Washington must be evaluated and approved by the school board, but with the current climate, he's put field trips on hold.

He said most field trips occur in the spring, and a majority of the trips will be to Harrisburg, Pa., and Hershey, Pa. No requests have been made to visit Washington or any of the sniper's targeted areas, he said.

The same is true in Berkeley County, W.Va. Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said all field trips are on hold until further notice in the county, and no teachers or parents seem to be upset about the decision.

"When it touched upon a school and these situations kept occurring, it made logical sense that we didn't want to take our kids down there," Arvon said.

He said it isn't safe right now to send Berkeley County students to the Washington area.

"We hope the situation ends soon, but we're monitoring it day to day," Arvon said.

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