WASHINGTON – The Kent County High School dairy judging team is lucky. The team can go to a national competition in Kentucky this month because they live in a county that has not banned field trips in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Other students have not been so lucky. Field trip policy varies by county across Maryland, with some imposing an almost total ban on field trips and others going case by case, as administrators try to strike a balance between protecting students and encouraging enriching travel.
Worcester County did not ban field trips is because “we are thinking at this point in time, it may be premature and unfair to the kids,” said schools spokesman Frederick D. Grant.
That position has not been entirely popular. Grant said Worcester school officials were criticized by parents for not canceling a Sept. 15 trip to Busch Gardens amusement park in Virginia. The county allowed the trip after making sure that the park was secure, and that the safety of the students would not be jeopardized.
“The safety of our kids is paramount,” Grant said.
In Charles County, all international trips have been canceled until next fall and the county is reviewing all other trips on a case-by-case basis.
“Depending on the situation internationally and with our country, that might change,” said Katie O’Malley-Simpson, a spokeswoman for Charles County schools.
St. Mary’s County also canceled foreign trips, as well as trips to Baltimore, New York, Washington D.C. and all other urban areas, said Rhodessa Millham, the county’s director of curriculum and instruction.
Frederick County, like Worcester and most other counties in the state, are leaving the decision on field trips to individual schools.
“This is certainly something we are watching day to day, and obviously, the playing field could change,” said Dan Cunningham, associate superintendent of Frederick County Schools.
Before Sept. 11, LaPlata High School teacher Karl Craton had tentative plans to a chaperone a trip to London and Paris for his European history students. He was ready to give information on the trip to his students this week when he was told that the county had just decided to ban international trips.
“We thought that there was a chance that it might not be approved (by county officials),” Craton said. “I understand what they were doing, and that they are concerned with students’ safety.”
The field trip ban has even reached as far as Germany.
Students from Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf stayed with German families this summer, and a group of students from Germany had planned to return the visit this week. They were going to stay with Thomas Stone families and visit Washington and New York City. But that trip was canceled by county officials.
“I think everyone is just waiting to see what happens,” said Stone principal Heath Morrison.