Harrison BOE approves Costa Rica trip

Erich T. Doerr| Review Correspondent

The Harrison Board of Education met on Monday night with one of the main topics being a possible spring break trip by Spanish class students to Costa Rica.

The topic was just one of several discussed during the meeting which also involved the hiring of a new teacher and a student petition against a dress code policy.

The discussion of the Spanish trip was led by Harrison High School Spanish and math teacher Todd Reeve. According to Reeve he and his students previously arranged a trip to Mexico every two years before skipping the last one in 2011 due to a lack of interest.

While Reeve originally intended to revive the Mexico trip he said concerns from parents about drugs and violence in the country put an end to that idea. While he added the school’s trips were typically to the Yucatan Peninsula area, where violence is not as much of an issue, he still listened to them.

“I understand that,” Reeve said of the concerns.

With Mexico out Reeve said he started talking with the EF Educational Tours company about other possibilities and the tour company suggested Costa Rica as an alternative.

“I’ve never been to Costa Rica,” Reeve said. “I thought that sounded interesting.”

Reeve said that the prices are comparable but the Costa Rica trip is nine days instead of the Mexico trip’s seven. He added that Costa Rica is a very safe destination and showed a video that demonstrated that the trip would include a trip to the jungle, a volcano, traditional dancing, kayaking and ziplining before adding they would also visit a local school for half a day.

“It’s one of those things that affects kids for the rest of their lives,” Reeve said of trips like this. “They are more comfortable (overseas) in a group setting.”

According to Reeve the trip would take place over Spring Break with the goal being leaving on Good Friday March 29 and returning on the following Saturday, April 6. He noted this would give students the last Sunday before school started again to readjust from the trip.

Reeve said he expected 10-12 students to sign up for the trip which would submerge the students in international culture with real-world activities in foreign languages such as haggling in a San Jose market or ordering their own food at a restaurant. He added during the tour company does not tolerate any deviation from its planned schedule.

“I think that will make parents feel better,” Reeve said, noting that parents would know at all times where their children are that way.

While the drinking age in Costa Rica is only 18 Reeve said the tour company would restrict the access of those on the trip to alcohol. He added any students would get into trouble could be disciplined by the school afterward.

According to Reeve the trip would be paid for by student fundraising mostly on an individual level. He said there would be a meeting on the trip at 7 p.m. next Monday in the high school’s Spanish room A6. The board unanimously approved the trip after a vote following a motion by board secretary Therese Haley and a second by Angie Cullen.

Monday’s meeting also saw the board approve the hiring of a new teacher for the district’s elementary schools in Carolyn Gotham. According to Larson Elementary principal Julie Rosekrans Gotham was one of five interviewed for the position and they recommended her because of her skills in the areas of art, music and technical education.

“She’ll do a good job,” Rosekrans said.

During the public participation portion of the meeting Harrison High School sophomore Carli Bushell raised her concerns about the school recently banning ripped jeans from being worn at school. Bushell presented the board with a petition signed by over 240 other students

“I speak for everyone who thinks this is unjust,” Bushell said. “I don’t see the point… Ripped jeans can be a fashion statement.”

Bushell argued her position by noting outside factors often steer students towards ripped jeans. She noted some teen-themed stores focus much of their sales on the ripped style and for others they are a necessity to avoid buying new jeans when the old ones are damaged.

Each member of the board was presented with a copy of the petition by Bushell with Harrison Superintendent Thomas House confirming Harrison High School Principal Jeremy Thomas also had a copy. House told Bushell the ban would remain in place for now but it would be revisited during the middle portion of the school year and the board would follow Thomas’ recommendations again following that review.

Also discussed was the successes of the S.P.A.R.K.S. tutoring program, a decision by the board not to buy a piece of property used by the high school’s cross country team and an update on the school’s Freedom Park project.

The meeting was the first for new board member Angie Cullen who was appointed last month. She said she enjoyed her first meeting.

“I’m excited to be here,” Cullen said.