Fuel prices to halt field trips?

April 28, 2008 3:34:25 PM PDT
In yet another sign of how the rising gas prices are affecting people across the area, bus contractors are asking the city to limit the number of student field trips.But as education reporter Art McFarland reports, the city is not putting the brakes on off-campus activities just yet.

More than 120,000 school children visit the Queens Hall of Science each year. Tens of thousands more take other field trips, mostly on school buses.

Art: "Would you miss the field trip?"
Student Jackie Davi: "Definitely, because it's so much fun going to places and you get, find a new way of learning."

"At a place like this, you're excited about mathematics and science," teacher Tillie McNamara said. "It's hands on. You engage all kinds of learners that aren't engaged in a traditional classroom setting."

But in a letter to the Department of Education, the bus contractors coalition said, "The elimination of field trips, which are burning thousands of gallons of diesel fuel each day, is a step the DOE can take to limit the financial distress in the industry." Representatives say some companies may be driven out of business.

But the Department of Education is not likely to honor the bus companies' request and cut back on field trips.

The DOE says it expects bus companies to honor their contract, which does not include fuel cost adjustments. According to the companies, the average cost of diesel fuel was $2.32 per gallon in June 2005, when the contract began. Now, it's $4. The average cost of fuel to run one bus rose from $4,600 to nearly $8,000 per year. But Queens Hall of Science CEO Marilyn Hoyt feels students would pay a high price for fewer field trips.

"There's real science, personal science, discovery here," she said. "It's tied to the curriculum in each of their grades. So there's real learning."

The bus contractors say they will push for changes when their contract expires in 2010.

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