The Olympia School Board voted unanimously last week to spend $30,000 to keep alive the decades-old, springtime tradition of sending the school district's fifth-graders to the outdoor classroom project at the Cispus Learning Center near Mount St. Helens.
Even in tough budget times, it was the right thing to do, especially since the nonprofit Olympia School District Education Foundation stepped up to the plate and raised $20,000 for the popular program.
The educational value of exposing young children to this magnificent Pacific Northwest old-growth forest setting is inarguable. It’s a chance to learn about natural sciences and other natural resource topics in an outdoor classroom.
It’s unfortunate that the trip to Camp Cispus is always on the chopping block, weighed against other more traditional public school priorities.
But parents, students, teachers and community members once again impressed upon the school board the unique and rich opportunity Camp Cispus provides for preteens.
The two-night, three day camp costs about $200, with parents paying 75 percent of the costs. The school district offers scholarships to families that can’t afford tuition, ensuring that all the children are included in the Camp Cispus experience.
That’s an appropriate use of school district funding.
At some point, the school district may need to find an outdoor classroom setting a little closer to home, perhaps in partnership with other school districts to keep costs down.
But for now, the Camp Cispus tradition will continue. That’s good news.