Rockwood clears way for academic field trips though substitute shortage continues to be problematic


anoushka pallekala

On a French 4 and Spanish 4 field trip to the University of St. Louis in 2019, Class of 2021 alumni Samreen Khan and Pranavi Pitchyaiah participate in a team-building activity during their junior year. The world language students participated in multiple activities, including a scavenger hunt. This was part of a field trip for World Language Day, where students got the opportunity to visit UMSL.

Samantha Haney, Opinions Editor

“As of this year, we were told that we could not do academic field trips due to the substitute shortage. With the last few weeks, teachers were informed that if we were able to find our own substitutes we will then be able to take field trips,” business teacher Matthew Steffens said.

The district-wide policy now allows teachers to find other teachers that are available during their planning period to act as a substitute for their classes. This policy was announced on Sept. 20 at a department head meeting. Previous to this, field trips were not allowed due to the current bus driver shortage and the continued substitute shortage.

While the substitute shortage is still an issue in the district, the policy was adjusted so field trips can happen again this year. The practice is important to Steffens, who feels students in his classes don’t learn as well without the field trips.

“Over the last few years during the pandemic, I have been unable to take a field trip,” Steffens said. “I have found ways to work around this and bring some of the curriculum and experiences to students, but a hands-on experience outside of the classroom brought the content more to life and from what I witnessed, there was much more student engagement when a student could see the application of their classroom learning.”

The bus driver shortage has also had a large effect on academic field trips, leading to bus route cuts and limited activity bus usage. However, this has not been the main issue in figuring out how to allow field trips.

“It isn’t the midday shift that’s the problem. Everyone is in school so those aren’t needed. It’s the beginning and end shifts that are the problem,” Principal Karen Calcaterra said.

Since there is new bus availability and the policy has changed to allow academic field trips, Calcaterra hopes that academic field trips will begin to return as teachers start planning them again.

Some teachers, such as language arts teacher Sophia Title, have taken classes on field trips in the past and plan on taking some in the future. However, the substitute policy is an obstacle for them.

“I have taken my Multicultural Literature class on different field trips,” Title said. “We’ve gone to see a movie a few times. One time I took a class to a Mosque in West County to get a tour and hear a person speak because we read [A Thousand Splendid Suns, written by Khaled Hosseini].”

With these field trips, Title said her classes have gained knowledge and more understanding of the scenes and events of the things her classes have researched. Without these experiences, Title believes her students won’t be able to have the best understanding possible of their units, especially since she has decided not to have field trips until the substitute shortage is resolved.

“I will probably wait until the sub. coverage is more widely available,” Title said.

Though academic field trips had been on hold until just recently, athletic teams have been able to travel since the beginning of the school year with certain precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

We’re allowed to travel as we have in the past, we just [need to] follow all the guidelines of wearing a mask on a bus,” Activities Director Jon Sumner said.

In addition to following the CDC mask guidelines, athletes have other guidelines to ensure they stay safe. These guidelines, such as proper mask-wearing and social distancing, were introduced this year to help allow travel to remain as close to previous years and make sure that the athletes can still compete.

“The transportation is through us and we’re spacing out our students in the rooms as much as we can. Then they’re under our supervision and they’re just playing there,” Sumner said. “They [will] have to follow the guidelines in place.”