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Oak Harbor schools scale back Camp Moran trip, but keep it alive

For the past several years, Camp Moran, the popular outdoor education camp that Oak Harbor School District’s sixth-graders attend every spring, has been on the chopping block whenever budget problems arise.

However, officials always seem to find a way to keep providing the popular camp on Orcas Island.

This year, rather than offering a four-night camp experience, school officials are cutting that to two nights while reducing the fee. Parents will have to pay an estimated $100, down a bit from the previous $125.

The school district had considered sending students to a different camp in the region, but decided to stick with the familiar experience.

“We weren’t sure how invested parents and students would be to something that is an unknown,” said Lance Gibbon, assistant superintendent of the Oak Harbor School District.

Camp Moran has been targeted to be cut in recent years because it costs the district approximately $83,000 and the education program offered wasn’t consistent with the school district’s learning requirements.

Gibbon said the Camp Moran staff was willing to work with the school district to change the education program. He said the Camp Moran director, Linda Sheridan, will come to Oak Harbor and work directly with teachers and volunteers to develop a more fitting program.

“It felt like they were willing to work with us,” Gibbon said.

There will be several other changes students will notice when they head to camp. By offering only a two-night stay, the education program will become more condensed and some items, such as the overnight hiking trip, will be scratched.

Gibbon said teachers and staff told him that students have a lot of down time and unstructured time during their four-day trip. The schedule can be rearranged to allow for a better use of time.

The vast majority of sixth-graders attend Camp Moran each spring. Gibbon said approximately 90 percent of the district’s sixth-graders enjoy the camp each year.

Staff contacts community groups to provide scholarships for low-income families. This year, 54 students received a full or partial scholarship.

During its meeting last week, the school board unanimously approved the new plans to contract with Camp Moran.

There is still talk on how to further tweak the program. Ideas include switching the camp from the spring to the fall, or even changing which grade attends.

It could change from sixth-grade to fifth-grade.

That idea didn’t go over well with Samantha Jackson, who represents students on the school board.

“I don’t know if fifth-graders can take being away from family that long,” Jackson said.

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