Shawnee Mission School District ending overnight elementary school trips to outdoor education centers after this year

Westwood View was one of the elementary schools that attended Wildwood overnight. Parents were notified last week that this will be the last year for the overnight program.

A long tradition of in some Shawnee Mission elementary schools will be coming to an end this year. The district has determined that overnight trips to outdoor centers will not be allowed starting with the 2015-16 school year.

The overnight stays at the centers, which included Wildwood, Tall Oaks and Timber Ridge, were popular events for sixth grade students who stayed overnight at several of the schools. Fifteen schools in the district had at least one overnight included in their trips. At Highlands, where students traditionally have spent two nights at Wildwood as sixth-graders, some of the current parents attended Wildwood when they were Highlands students.

Students can still travel to the centers for day trips, but will be required to return home each day. If the trip is multi-day, the students will need to be bused back and forth from school each day. Wildwood in La Cygne is more than 50 miles south. Tall Oaks is approximately 30 miles west in Linwood.

In the Shawnee Mission School District 10 elementary schools already attended a day-only program and eight schools do not attend a program. Fundraising to pay for the trips is often carried out by parents and students. The increasing costs and the associated fundraising was among the reasons cited by the district for canceling the overnight programs.

The new policy only affects programs at the elementary level. Overnights for secondary events or competitions are not part of the change. The outdoor center trips, where students usually stayed in cabins, was the only elementary program that has an overnight included.

A district spokesperson cited the growing number of students with extensive health concerns, medical needs and allergies and the associated staffing to address those needs. “From an educational standpoint, the connection with the district’s curriculum is limited when considering the overnight component,” the district said. Staffing also is a challenge to get volunteers and staff to chaperone the overnights and balance staffing at the schools, according to the district.

An email sent to Westwood View parents last week said in part, “There are many reasons to reconsider overnight stays, with one of the foremost being an increase in liability.” The email also cited the health and medical issues as well as special needs students contributing to the liability. Westwood View has been one of the overnight participants at Wildwood.