Groups inch closer to Cispus fundraising goal

South Sound students in Olympia and Tumwater are closer to preserving a traditional overnight camping trip to the Cispus Learning Center after Olympia parents might have reached their fundraising goal over the weekend and Tumwater parents have come within 10 percent of theirs.

The Olympia and Tumwater school boards cut the districts’ overnight camping trips to Cispus for elementary school-age children as they battled with shortfalls in the millions of dollars.

Parents and supporters in both districts say that the trip to Cispus, also called outdoor school, allows students to learn about science and the environment in a natural setting, bond with their future middle school classmates, and learn leadership in high school by volunteering to be a camp counselor.

Even as the programs were cut, both districts allowed parents and supporters to try to raise money to save the programs this spring. Olympia’s deadline is Dec. 31, and Tumwater’s is Jan. 1.

Families in both districts still must pay a student fee for children going on the trip.

Olympia parents needed to raise $49,000, and early results from a weekend fundraiser at Skateland showed that it brought in $3,000, said Ryan Hall, a parent volunteer with Save Outdoor School – Olympia Kids.

“If so, then we definitely reached our goal,” she said. The group plans to present the results of its fundraising efforts to the school district at its meeting next Monday.

In Tumwater, parents needed to raise $30,000 and still are about $3,000 shy of the goal, said Tumwater parent Chris Peters.

“If you’d asked me before Thanksgiving, I was very confident that we’d reach the goal. But now, I’m a little nervous about it,” Peters said.

Tumwater parent Raechel Laneer said she planned to pursue some grant opportunities and felt confident that the group could close that gap by the end of the month.

“It’s 10 percent. I think it’s pretty minimal,” she said.

Peters said the Tumwater group aims to raise more than its goal to allow for scholarships for families who will not be able to pay the student fee.

In about four months, the two groups have raised or received pledges of $76,000, but thoughts already are moving toward the future and whether the programs will be saved.

Peters said that in Tumwater, parents are already talking about raising money to save the program for the sixth-graders in the 2010-11 school year.

In Olympia, Save Outdoor Schools – Olympia Kids plans to meet in January to explore how to run outdoor school more affordably, Hall said.

She said the group will explore many possibilities, including closer campgrounds and looking at other districts’ outdoor-school models.

Hall said she thinks that kind of examination of the outdoor school program is overdue.

“We didn’t think it was fair for this group of kids to miss out on this experience that has been happening for four decades because the adults didn’t do what they were supposed to do to make it affordable,” she said.

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445