Off to the game, after all

Published 8:32 pm Saturday, January 9, 2010

A first-grade class from Elephant’s Fork Elementary School spent part of the day in Norfolk on Saturday watching the Old Dominion University Monarchs win their 17th game in a row.

The trip was the children’s reward for collecting the most canned food in a recent food drive at Elephant’s Fork.

It was turned out to be a lesson in perseverance.

On Thursday, it looked as if the students would be given the chance to go to the game with tickets donated through ODU’s public relations program. But they would be denied the opportunity to go together on a school bus, and some class members were unlikely to find transportation.

By Friday afternoon, following inquiries from the Suffolk News-Herald, the school system’s administration had changed its mind and agreed to allow the field trip.

“They will be allowed to go now,” Dr. Deran Whitney, deputy superintendent for Suffolk Public Schools said Friday. “We do not want to penalize or disappoint the students because it wasn’t handled properly on the school level.”

Lisa Coco, parent of one of the first-graders, alerted the News-Herald on Thursday that the field trip had been denied.

According to city school officials, the field trip was originally denied because the request was not submitted under the required timeline, and the trip was not tied to instruction.

Dr. Veleta Gatling, principal of Elephant’s Fork, explained that a request for a field trip must be submitted 30 days in advance to be considered by the board for approval.

Coco, however, said that Whitney had told her he would not have approved the field trip even if the request had been made in time, because he was worried the children were not mature enough to sit through a basketball game.

Whitney verified on Friday that he was concerned about the children’s attention span during a college basketball game and about the amount of supervision they would have.

And Suffolk schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw suggested that budget restrictions had played a part in administrators denying the trip request.

Despite all the concerns, though, the school administration has made a bus and driver available to take the students to the game they were promised.

Whitney called the News-Herald on Friday afternoon to deliver the news that the trip was back on.

“Occasionally, an exception is made based on the trip’s merit,” Bradshaw said.

Coco’s daughter, Sophia Roane, said it would be the first time she and many of her friends attended a game.

“We’ve been really excited and talking about it and waiting to go to the game,” she said.