Dowagiac Board of Education revises board policies on field trips, district-sponsored trips

DOWAGIAC — Monday, the Dowagiac Union Schools Board of Education streamlined the process of approving field trips and district-sponsored trips.

In the school board’s first meeting conducted via Zoom Video Communications in compliance with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order 2020-15, temporarily authorizing remote participation in public meetings and hearings, the school board updated old business.

“The original policy was that any field trip that was out of state required the board of education to take action on,” said Superintendent Jonathan Whan. “If the students were going to take a field trip over the Indiana border, the board would need to approve it.”

Whan said the new policy would allow just his approval for field trips that are within 45 miles of driving distance, using the district’s main central office as the starting point.

“If a field trip can get to a destination and back within in the state on a single day, then I can approve that without having to go to the board,” he added.

Whan said some field trips take place at destinations 20 miles south of the Indiana border. In the past, Dowagiac Students have attended field trips at the South Bend Symphony.

Now, under the new field trip policies, those trips will not need to be approved by the board and can be supported solely by the superintendent.

Also on Monday, the board voted on two resolutions to grant emergency powers to the Whan.

“With all the executive orders that have come down and with the difficulty of having meetings, as long as I am keeping the board informed, I have more opportunity in decision making,” he said.

So far, Whan said he does not see having to use any of the emergency powers but wanted to align with the recommendations coming from the government in Lansing and the Michigan Association of School Boards’ legal counsel.

“They recommended that boards take that action to make sure we are crossing the t’s and dotting the I’s,” Whan said.

“Nothing like this has come up, and I don’t foresee needing this authority going forward, but it’s just kind of a way to cover all our bases.”

Under the resolutions, superintendents have the authority to temporarily waive board policies or provisions to comply with executive order 2020-21, to suspend activities not necessary to sustain life. Superintendents also have the authority to take lawful actions to comply with executive order 2020-35, to guarantee the continuation of public education, provide for the health and safety of students and employees, and to respond to direction from appropriate health and government authorities.

Lastly, superintendents can enter contracts without the board’s approval of any dollar amount for the purchase of items related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, Monday, Trustee Ronald Jones and Vice President Ruth Ausra asked about the delay in taking down the ICG building, located behind Dowagiac Union High School. In February, the city announced it would put together a lease with Dowagiac Union Schools. While the city will purchase and own the property, the school will reimburse the city over time for demolition and other associated costs.

Whan said the district had not paid the city of Dowagiac yet to purchase the building.

“That money is not in the city’s hands yet,” Whan said. “The building hasn’t officially been sold. They [city] is in the process, but the quarantine has made it a little more difficult for them to do business as well.”

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