District makes changes to Gooseberry trip

After 43 straight years of field trips to Gooseberry, the overnight portion of the third-grade event will now be cancelled.

Sevier School District assistant superintendent, Mike Willes said that the superintendent and the Sevier Board of Education were 100% committed to the Gooseberry experience. However, multiple safety concerns needed to be addressed.

“It’s been a great program for many years,” said Willes. “We believe in the educational and cultural opportunities it provides our students. But, for the past 10 years, at least, principals and teachers have seen the need for changes.”

There is no single incident in the district that sparked this change. It is just the district being proactive because of some concerns of what might happen.

“The overnight stay is the part we’re concerned about,” said Willes.

“Not only do we need to protect our children, but there is also a liability for our teachers and staff members as well. We are not saying that anything has happened, or would happen, but even a false report ruins careers, and lives.”

Precautions have been taken to ensure participants’ safety and well-being each year.

This includes background checks. It is an open place, so people have wandered into the area where the students are, and there are concerns about children possibly wandering off at night and getting lost. There is also the increase in child sexual assault cases concerning people at the district.

“Gooseberry is a great thing, and we plan to continue to give our students the exact same experience, without the sleepover,” said Sevier School District superintendent Cade Douglas.

“We’ve spent hours analyzing this and we can still arrive at 9 a.m. and have the classes. We can still have the campfire, the Annie Bangs, the dinner, the programs, the whole Gooseberry experience, without the overnight stay.”

The board unanimously approved the policy Jan.

11. A letter has been sent out to parents of second- grade students of the change happening in the 2023-2024 school year.

Everything will stay the same, except the students will either go home to sleep, or stay overnight with family in any available camp sites.