The School Committee approved a field trip for Watertown High School music students to spend a weekend in New York, but had concerns about the price and making sure that all students can participate.
The trip to the Big Apple has become a biannual tradition for the chorus, band, and orchestra. The trip includes a performance and workshop with professional musicians, a Broadway show, a dinner/dance cruise around the Statue of Liberty, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walking around Central Park.
The teacher planning the trip in March 2025, Macullen Byham, said when she first went in 2019 the cost for the two-night trip was “in the $600s” per student, while the quote from the company organizing the trip was $900. The costs of hotels and gas for the two buses anticipated to be needed for approximately 80 students make up a large portion of the cost, Byham said.
Lily Rayman-Read, a School Committee member who also teaches in another district, said she has been involved in planning a trip to New York, and said that she has also seen prices rising in recent years.
Members of the School Committee expressed concern about how many families would be able to afford to pay that much to send their student on the trip, and said they want to start looking at ways for the district to help defray some cost and make sure that no student is left out because of financial reasons. At the same time, they want to preserve the enrichment activity outside the classroom and beyond the school day.
The price worried School Committee member Rachel Kay.
“I am really not comfortable with this amount of money for anyone,” Kay said. “I am pretty sure my family would not be considered low income, and I don’t think I would be able to come up with that much money.”
She added that she found another trip hosted by the same company for students in North Andover that cost $850 for three nights in New York. That figure was before fundraising efforts, she noted.
WHS Principal Joel Giacobozzi said he would be happy to reach out to the company to see how the cost could be cut. He added that he went on the trip last year, and said “it was a magical experience for the kids.”
Byham told the School Committee that one of the reasons she came to get approval so early was to allow students to do fundraising to cut down the per-student cost. They have contemplated fundraising events such as car washes, sale of Watertown music or fine arts clothing, bake sales, and even asking family and friends to sponsor the trip, a service provided by the company organizing the trip.
Superintendent Dede Galdston said that before fundraising efforts can begin, the field trip must be approved by the School Committee.
School Committee member Jessica Middlebrook asked how many students could not make the trip in previous years due to the cost. Byham said that in the five years she has been going on the trips she can think of a couple students who needed help, and they were able to get scholarships. She added that the Friends of Watertown Music community group helped provide assistance.
School Committee member Lisa Capoccia worried that some students may be missing out and may not come forward. She said it also may be a similar situation with the Watertown Middle School’s annual eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C.
“I’d like to emphasize that one-third of our students are in low income families, so they may be self-selecting out of a lot of opportunities before we get to this point to go to New York,” Capoccia said. “We just want to think about … how to have a system-wide option to support and subsidize travel for students so they can participate.”
Rayman-Read agreed that the district should be looking more into ways to make this and other field trips accessible to all students, but she does not want to take away opportunities.
“Maybe this is something that the district has to start thinking about budgeting for,” Rayman-Read said. “If we know we are doing the DC trip every year, if we know this trip is going to happen every year for 25 years, let’s start thinking about this longitudinally and talk about how we can potentially support this long term. I also don’t want to preclude students this year from having this experience while we have this discussion.”
School Committee Chair Kendra Foley agreed, and suggested the discussion should start at the School Committee’s Budget & Finance Subcommittee.
“We come across this a lot and we get push back sometimes about, ‘When you say equity you are taking away because not everyone has access,'” Foley said. “No, it actually (requires) more work. I think we put it on ourselves and say what are we going to do so that everyone has access to it while we continue to provide great enrichment activities to all of our students.”
The School Committee voted 6-1 to approve the Watertown High School music departments trip to New York. Kay voted against it saying that the cost still concerned her.