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COA panel tables revised field trip policy

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, November 20, 2017

College of The Albemarle officials have tabled action on a revised field trip policy to take a closer look at how it affects high school students enrolled in COA classes.

Evonne Carter, COA’s vice president for learning, said last week she plans to take a second look at the revised field trip policy in response to concerns expressed by COA Trustee Arthur Tillett.

Tillett, of Dare County, suggested to members of COA trustees’ Policy and Planning Committee on Thursday that the revised policy could have an adverse effect on high school students enrolled in COA classes through dual enrollment opportunities such as Career and College Promise.

According to the revised policy, “field trips that require students to miss other classes should be kept to a minimum.” COA students who plan to participate in a field trip “are responsible for informing their other instructors if they will miss a class or assignment” because of the trip. Students taking part in field trips are also “expected to make advance arrangements to make up for any missed assignments or work,” according to the revised policy.

If students comply with the revised policy, faculty members “will not penalize” them for “missing a class because of approved field trips.” Students who comply with the policy’s requirements are also supposed to be “counted present” for their class.

The revised policy also defines field trips as "organized and supervised events led by a college staff or faculty member in which COA students are taken off campus to participate in an educational or cultural activity that is directly related to course work."

Tillett said his concern is that the revised policy’s wording doesn’t appear to cover approved field trips that dually enrolled students take at their high school.

Dual enrollment has been a source of growth for COA in recent years and college officials have expressed interest in growing the Career and College Promise enrollment.

Tillett said being penalized for participation in a high school field trip could be a deal-breaker for some of the most high-performing high school students considering enrolling in a dual enrollment program. If the student is participating in the high school band and wants to take a band-related field trip approved by their high school, for example, the student may be leery of a college program that wouldn’t count the trip as an excused absence.

The situation has been a real issue in Dare County, Tillett said, adding that some high school students might even be shying away from the dual enrollment program because of fears they’ll be counted absent from COA classes if they take a high school field trip.

Tillett noted the issue of unexcused absences for taking a field trip hasn’t been a problem in online-only classes. It has been an issue, however, in some “hybrid” classes that combine online instruction with some face-to-face class meetings, he said.

“I really think it’s something we need to talk seriously about,” Tillett said, adding the discussion could occur at the committee level or even at a meeting of the full COA Board of Trustees.

Carter, the COA official who presented the revised policy, said that given the concern about dual enrollment students, she would like to look at the proposal again with faculty and staff and bring it back to the committee. She asked that the proposed policy revision be tabled.

Trustee Joe Peel, who chairs the Policy and Planning Committee, said the committee can discuss it again at its meeting in January.

On a motion by Trustee Patti Kersey the committee voted unanimously to table the proposed revision to the field trip policy.

Tillett said he has shared his concern about field trips and dual enrollment students with COA President Robert Wyengar. Tillett said he believes it’s an important issue to resolve as the college tries to grow dual enrollment.

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