Haddonfield parents express displeasure with cancellation of Sesame Place safety trip

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Public comment became heated at the Board of Education meeting when parents voiced their displeasure that the fifth-grade trip for school safeties to Sesame Place was cancelled with little notice. The trip has been a tradition for 30 years, according to resident Teri Kasko.

Kasko said it is not fair the trip was cancelled for multiple reasons. She said the decision was made unilaterally; was not communicated to everyone, only the parents of fifth graders; and was not fair to the students who put in all of the hard work being safeties. Kasko, along with the others who attended the meeting, asked that the trip be reinstated.

“This is a tradition that has been going on for 30 some years… when the kids get to kindergarten all they talk about is the Sesame Place trip. It is something these kids work toward. They’re in the rain and give up part of their lunch… that is the fundamental basics of work and reward (the reward being Sesame Place),” parent and resident Tom Heine said.

There is also the support of more than 200 individuals interested in reinstating the trip, according to Kasko, as there is an online petition. The petition can be found at www.gopetition.com/ petitions/parents-kids-to-reinstate-the-safety-trip.html. Comments on the petition may be viewed by clicking the Signatures tab and selecting the highlighted word “View” beside signatures.

All elementary school principals were in attendance at the meeting. Reasons stated for the cancellation of the trip include safety reasons and the trip being not inclusive. Central Elementary School Principal Shannon Simkus said there were safety concerns in regard to weather, as there was really no central place at the park to stay covered, and at least one child getting separated from a group each year in the park. She also said students who could not be safeties, for various reasons, felt left out and they would like for everyone to feel included. The solution was for a bowling trip and a trip to YMCA Camp Ockanickon that includes all fifth-grade students. The Camp Ockanickon trip would bring all of the fifth graders together, creating some team building and a common experience for all to experience before middle school.

“It was a long and thoughtful process,” Simkus said.

Board President Glenn Moramarco said the inclusive trip makes it more fair to all students, being a safety is more like volunteering, rather than work.

Parent and resident Joana McDonnell said she is not giving an opinion for or against the cancellation of the trip, but she did want to give an example that she has experienced in regard to the Sesame Place trip. Scattergood said due to health reasons, her daughter could not be a safety and wanted to so badly, but could not. When the trip came around, McDonnell kept her daughter home from school that day.

“There are some kids that want to, but for whatever reason, can’t,” McDonnell said.

Members of the public speaking on the topic would have liked the allowance for discussion and parental input on the decision. Kasko even suggested a committee be put together to make such decisions and for decisions to be communicated.

“We can put a group together to address the issues and fix the problems so we can continue a tradition that has been a part of this community for 30 years and is valued,” Kasko said.

Superintendent Richard Perry thanked those who came to make comments and said he will meet with the principals as an administrative team, review all aspects of communications and how the kids feel.

“We’re going to be meeting as a team and reaching out and communicating,” Perry said.