District and families clash over fundraiser profits from delayed Washington D.C-New York City trip

The annual Washington D.C.-New York City trip taken by eighth-grade graduates comes with a price tag of nearly $3000, an expense that most students rely on school fundraisers to cover.

Fundraising typically starts when students are in sixth grade to allow ample opportunity to maximize profits. Some parents and students now regret having invested the time and effort as they have learned that those funds aren’t allowed to be personally allocated or returned in the event they are unable or choose not to travel with the group.

Families were encouraged to protect their investments by purchasing the “Full Refund Plan.” A travel insurance plan that WorldStrides offers. If a student were to cancel their travel plan for any reason, all monies, excluding the non-refundable $49 deposit and the insurance plan’s cost, would be returned in the form they were received. That includes donations through school fundraising efforts and direct payments made to WorldStrides on behalf of the student.

The trip was originally scheduled in May, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic was postponed to October 2020. It has been rescheduled again, to the dismay of some students and families.

All students previously approved by Creekside and Walnut Grove and registered with WorldStrides travel company will be allowed to travel at a later date. However, the schedule change and health and safety concerns have caused some families to cancel their students’ trips altogether.

Families under the impression that fundraising profits were in their students’ names believed that the District should grant them refunds on the basis of their students’ efforts to raise funds.

Communications from the District office came from Assistant Superintendent Jeff Menge, “A charitable gift, by definition, is irrevocable. Charitable gifts that are “designated contributions” to non-profit organizations or government entities are considered to be held in trust for a designated purpose (in this case, an educational trip).

As long as the donor’s designation is honored or the entity continues to plan to do so, there is no obligation to return a donor’s designated contribution. The trip is still being offered (just at a later date), so it is possible that the funds can still be used for the designated purpose.”

Further information regarding Board Policy 1321, which states, “funds are to be raised for the benefit of a particular school or club and not for the benefit of one student” was sent to parents to clarify the District’s decision not to return or transfer funds.

Parents have expressed their concerns over the lack of transparency in communications offered by the organizers of the trip, school, and district staff. Parents have made claims that school staff didn’t properly explain how the fundraisers were to benefit students.

Superintendents Alfano and Menge acknowledge parent and student frustration and hope that all students who planned to travel will still choose to take part in the delayed trip. The funds will remain in the account to be used for an educational trip benefiting all students.

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