In front of Seattle’s Stevens Elementary, fifth-graders protested the cancellation of their end-of-the-year, overnight field trip.
A group of concerned Seattle residents has been staging protests this week to voice concern about a lack of transparency over a decision the group doesn’t like.
The protest site: a playground.
Stevens Elementary fifth-graders and their parents staged a “camp-in” outside their school Friday morning to protest the cancellation of their much-anticipated camping field trip, which was planned for early May. But parents received a letter this week saying the trip to Camp Orkila in the San Juan Islands wouldn’t happen because of an issue with paperwork.
The students, who have heard about the trip since kindergarten, were disappointed, and their parents say the cancellation is part of a larger issue at the school. They think teachers were worried about field-trip liability, especially in light of recent issues on some high-school field trips in Seattle and the Highline School District, and the termination of one Garfield High School teacher over violations of district field-trip rules.
“This is a symptom of a larger administrative failure,” said parent Heather Timm as kids chanted, “What do we want? Camp! When do we want it? Now!”
Since Monday, when Stevens Principal Kelley Archer and Assistant Principal Colleen Stump announced the cancellation, the students have staged their own demonstrations during recesses. A few walked into the principals’ offices to ask why their trip was canceled.
“I’m disappointed and very angry,” said Conor McRory, 11. “It’s definitely not paperwork. We want the truth.”
Camp Orkila, operated by the YMCA of Greater Seattle, is a popular destination for area schools. At Stevens, fifth-grade students have gone to Orkila for nearly two decades.
“I’ve looked forward to going ever since my sister went,” said Elinor Earle, 11. “It’s not fair that I won’t get to go. When I found out (about the cancellation), I felt mad. I didn’t want to go to school anymore.”
The district maintains that the decision is based on procedure rather than teacher concerns or student behavior. In their letter to parents, the principals wrote that school staff submitted incomplete paperwork, even when the submission deadline was extended.
It’s possible the students still could go to the camp in June if the school administration feels all policies have been followed and paperwork is submitted, district spokeswoman Stacy Howard said Friday afternoon.
Stevens administrators couldn’t be reached for comment.
“We know they are frustrated and were excited to go to camp, but again, the district has policies in place,” Howard said. “We are just as hopeful as the families that they will be able to attend Camp Orkila.”
Parents said they didn’t think there were any paperwork issues in the first place. Some also expressed concern about finding enough chaperones who are able to take three days off from work in June.
“If it’s real, then parents are going to go out of their way to chaperone,” parent Christine Stepherson said. “I just don’t think anyone feels sure it’s going to happen. Nothing we have heard, all week long, makes us think it will.”