MANDATA - Directors of the Line Mountain School Board were left to weigh the educational value of a field trip when school consolidation and contract negotiations left little money in the sixth grade coffers.

Directors at Tuesday's meeting were surprised to find the sixth grade's annual field trip to Washington, D.C., had been replaced by a day at Knoebels Amusement Resort - a trip that was subsequently approved after much discussion.

Superintendent David Campbell said the destination was changed because the sixth grade was unable to raise the money needed to pay for the trip.

The Class of 2020 is scheduled to pay $2,380 for the upcoming expedition to the Elysburg amusement park. The sixth grade had raised about $4,000, leaving them shy of the approximately $6,000 needed to go to Washington, D.C., a trip that had been taken by the past four sixth-grade classes.

No funds were carried over from previous years to the newly consolidated class.

Because of the transition in schools and ongoing contract negotiations, no class advisor was appointed for the grade. As a result, the students had little guidance on fundraising - and the school board had no one to bring the lack of funds to their attention when there was still time to raise more money.

Director Lauren Hackenburg brought up the issue at Tuesday's meeting during a scheduled report on field trips. While she appreciated the effort taken to raise money and plan the trip to Knoebels, she worried the students would be missing out on an important learning opportunity by forgoing Washington, D.C. She asked the board to provide the money needed to fund the trip as a one-time exception.

"I find it to be of a greater educational value," Hackenburg said.

Director David Bartholomew agreed with her assessment that a Knoebels trip had a lower academic value because many families in the school district already visited the park several times per year.

"It's a waste of money," he said.

In contrast, Campbell said he thought that because the attractions visited by the students in Washington, D.C., had free admission while Knoebels required a fee to partake in rides, low-income students had a greater chance of attending the former with their families.

Campbell also noted that the Class of 2020 visited the Philadelphia Zoo last year, which cost approximately $6,000, and said he would be open to the students traveling to Washington, D.C., on future trips if they raised enough funds.

Board president Troy Laudenslager thought giving the students money they did not raise themselves would encourage them to ask for other funds they did not earn in the future. Not funding the trip could be used as a learning opportunity for consequences.

Board vice president Dennis Erdman was more concerned with the poor communication between the administration and the board over the fundraising shortage.

"Why didn't we know to have another fundraiser?" he asked.

The board passed the resolution to have the sixth grade go on the Knoebels field trip, 8-1. Bartholomew dissented.

Campbell concluded the discussion with the affirmation that the administration would work to develop a better method of ensuring students would have guidance in future fundraisers and aid in planning field trips.

"We will have a discussion with the fifth and sixth grade about culminating in a Washington, D.C., trip," he said.