RENSSELAER — For the first time in three decades, Rensselaer Central Middle School’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., didn’t get rolling last year due to the COVID pandemic.
However, RCMS teacher and trip sponsor Melissa Ahler and school officials appear determined to have students reach Washington this coming spring.
The trip, scheduled for May 29 to June 5, will include a group of last year’s eighth-grade students — now high school freshmen — and this year’s eighth-graders.
“This is such a long tradition and the kids have lost so many things,” Ahler told the school board recently. “Last year’s eighth-graders didn’t have their commencement, didn’t have a track season. I just thought if we can make this happen, it’s such a great experience for a lot of kids. And I don’t even know about refunding kids. That would have been awful, so I’m determined to make this happen if I can.”
RCMS’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., began over 35 years ago when former government teacher George Cover bused students to the nation’s capital. The trip includes stops in Gettysburg, Pa., and Williamsburg, Va., before arriving in D.C.
Each student is responsible for maintaining a B- average in school, good behavior and paying the cost of the trip.
Students, parents and chaperones were in the final stages of planning when last year’s trip was called off due to the uncertainty of the coronovirus. It also meant canceling the annual golf outing used as a fundraiser for the trip.
The 2019-20 eighth-grade class did hold an outing in October to help with finances.
The D.C. breakfast will be held at the Knights of Columbus on March 7 and another golf outing at Curtis Creek Golf Course in Rensselaer is scheduled for May 2.
“They have done essentially all of their fundraising for their trip,” Ahler said. “I sent out a reminder giving everyone their balance and most of the kids are within couple hundred dollars of achieving their final payment for the trip.”
Students and parents were able to slip in a D.C. breakfast last year before schools were closed due to the pandemic. Ahler is hopeful the breakfast will go as scheduled in 2021.
“It’s on the books, but I have no idea what that’s going to look like,” she said. “That might be people in their cars driving through to pick up carry-outs. It might be a few people in the building. It might be a combination. We’re moving ahead, but we’re just going to be very flexible.”
Because the trip will include two eighth-grade classes from 2020 and 2021, it will be a much larger group than what RCMS has taken to D.C. in the past.
But WorldStrides Educational Travel & Experiences, which serves as trip coordinator, said it can accommodate the increase in numbers.
“They said, ‘Oh, this is not a big group to us because we have large schools who bring a lot of kids. What might be big for you, we can handle this,’” Ahler said.
“Being as the world is right now, we’re hoping that will happen. The people at WorldStrides feels like that is a pretty safe date for us, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
WorldStrides also offers parents and students to keep updated on their individual finances for the trip. Essentially a GoFundMe account, students can send a link to family and friends to give those people an opportunity to support their fundraising efforts.
Families can also make credit card payments through a payment system, Ahler added.
“If we can’t host as many people as we’d like for the D.C. breakfast, this is another way friends can help the kids,” Ahler said.