They won't go trick-or-treating at the White House, but most Lake Bluff Middle School eighth graders will be in Washington D.C. on Halloween.
For the first time, the school's annual trip to the nation's capital takes place Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, meaning the teens will be in a Virginia hotel room on Halloween night rather than ringing door bells on Center Avenue and/or spraying shaving cream in Artesian Park. Given that Halloween is such a celebratory holiday in Lake Bluff, some parents question the timing of the trip while others wonder about it's price tag and/or educational value.
The school's new principal, Nate Blackmer, said he can relate to parents who are not crazy about the date–he'd like to spend Halloween with his two-year-old son. But he inherited the schedule with the job he started this summer. "It's one of those decisions that was made before I arrived, and it was too late to change it," he told GazeboNews. He said the fall calendar is full and that the trip "used to be done in the early spring. Weather was a challenge, affordable flights were a challenge, and there was a push to move it to the fall." He hopes to plan a different date for next year's D.C. excursion.
The D.C. trip is wildly popular with students, and some parents just go along with it because they don't want to be the only one who says no.
Meanwhile, many parents report that their older children had terrific experiences on previous D.C. trips. In an e-mail thread that's circulating through Lake Bluff's cyberspace, one parent said her sons came home tired but were fine after a good night's sleep. Another mom said her older son liked the museums so much, he wished they could have spent more time in them. But she added that her daughter had different reasons for enjoying the trip–for her, it was like a slumber party.
That's what's holding parent Jenny Simpson back from making a decision. "It's hard to spend $900 just so your child can hang out with his friends in a hotel room," she said. She plans to attend an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 in the LBMS Library Media Center.
The meeting is important. Parents of eighth graders recently received a 13-page sign-up packet that summarizes the travel schedule, itinerary and hotel arrangements, with information about some of the changes involved with the new touring company, Hemisphere Educational Travel. It also outlines the district's no-cell-phones-on-trips policy. But the packet does not say how the trip fits in with the eighth-grade curriculum.
Check back in with Gazebonews.com after the Sept. 4 meeting.