Field Trip Planning for Parishes and Catholic Schools
The Diocese of Lafayette recognizes the importance and value of trips for educational field study. Our field trip policy permits principals and/or assistants/vice principals to approve of field trips during normal school hours on a single school day.
However, if out-of-state or foreign trips are planned, these must have the ultimate approval of the Diocese and/or school board.
The key to a safe and successful trip is proper planning. In terms of risk management, this means identifying possible risks and taking action to avoid or mitigate those risks. This includes using due diligence when choosing field trip destinations, obtaining permission from parents/guardians, ensuring your trip is adequately supervised with the right personnel, and taking into consideration the special needs of the students.
First, make sure your field trip is related to the curriculum studied at school, the catechesis taught in parish programs, or the mission carried out by the parish. Ask the following questions:
- How will the students benefit from the field trip?
- How does the trip fit into the curriculum or catechesis?
- How will the teacher/youth minister follow up on the trip afterwards?
- How will the students be prepared in advance for the trip?
When choosing a destination, keep please keep the following in mind:
- Distance between parish or school and the destination: Take into consideration the time of day you are travelling and the traffic you may encounter to determine how long it will take to arrive at your destination and ensure that you will be able to return to the parish/school by the designated time. A rule of thumb is that the destination should not exceed 100 miles for a day trip.
- Specifics of the environment: Be sure to have someone visit the site ahead of time to review the site with a critical eye. Look out for anything that has the potential to cause injury and be sure all other chaperones are made aware of it. We cannot predict every injury that may occur, but being aware of our environment and taking note of potentially dangerous situations may help prevent injuries.
- Time of year you are travelling: Be mindful of the potential weather conditions for the time of year you are travelling. If you are going to an outdoor shrine in the summer, for example, prepare students to protect themselves from sun exposure with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
A child should never attend a field trip without a permission form signed by a parent or guardian; verbal consent is not acceptable. Plan adequate time for parents/guardians to give their written consent. The form should contain an area in which a parent can indicate special needs or considerations regarding the student. Be sure to keep all permission slips on file. Provisions must be made for any student not making the trip and left behind in school.
A member of the faculty (or in the case of parish-related trips, a parish employee) must be present on every trip. The recommended ratio of chaperones to students will vary depending on the age of the children and the scope of the activity. Contact the Office of Risk Management for more information.
All volunteers, including parents and guardians, must undergo a criminal background investigation and complete (or show proof of having completed) the Protecting God’s Children program. For the safety of all participants, at least one chaperone/staff member should be certified in CPR and First Aid.
Keeping Track of Students
Be sure each chaperone has a written list of the students under his/her care. In addition, the field trip leader should carry a master list of students and chaperones and emergency contact details at all times during the trip.
All younger children should wear nametags as identification. It is also helpful if the reverse side of the nametags indicate the child’s assigned chaperone and the chaperone’s cell phone number, in the event a child is lost.
The mode of transportation for each trip should be noted on the permission slips sent to parents.
Licensed Public Carriers
If using a licensed public carrier such as a chartered bus, be sure to perform due diligence and ensure that the company is reputable and insured. Signed contracts should be executed with an appropriate hold harmless agreement protecting the parish/school and the Diocese of Lafayette. Also, contracted carriers should provide proof of insurance with minimum limits of liability of $1,000,000 CSL (Combined Single Limit).
Use of Volunteer Drivers
The use of volunteer drivers is discouraged. The use of private passenger vehicles is discouraged and should be avoided if at all possible. If a private passenger vehicle must be used, then the following information must be supplied and this information must be certified by the driver in question:
- The driver must be 21 years of age or older.
- The driver must have a valid, non-probationary driver’s license and no physical disability that could in any way impair his/her ability to drive the vehicle safely.
- The vehicle must have a valid and current registration and valid and current license plates.
- The vehicle must be validly insured in the state of Louisiana
A signed Driver Information Sheet for each driver must be obtained prior to the field trip.
Because food and environmental allergies are becoming more prevalent, personnel on field trips must be prepared to deal with allergic reactions, including the potential for anaphylaxis. If there are students with known allergies attending the field trip, then all staff on the trip should receive basic education concerning allergies. In addition, one or two chaperones on the trip should be trained in recognizing symptoms of life-threating allergic reactions. In order to avoid allergen-related incidents, please follow these additional guidelines:
- Invite parents of a student at risk for anaphylaxis to accompany their child on the trip, in addition to the chaperone. However, the student’s safety or attendance must not be conditioned on the parent’s presence.
- If travelling via bus, enforce a “no food” policy while on the bus. Arrange for a child with known life threatening allergies to sit near a chaperone aware of his/her allergy.
- If there is a student with a life-threatening allergy that requires the use of epinephrine by auto-injector, determine who will transport and administer the epinephrine should an emergency occur. Be sure a medical authorization form has been filled out by the parent/guardian.
- Choose field trips locations with care; no student should be excluded from a field trip due to risk of allergen exposure.
- Have hand wipes available for students and staff to use before and after consuming food.
- If preparing lunches or snacks for the group in advance, use proper food safety procedures to avoid cross-contamination.
- Often in the school setting, certain tables will be designated as allergen-free. Because it may be difficult to segregate students on field trips, however, it is best to notify parents of foods to be excluded from the trip rather than attempt to segregate children.
- If eating at a restaurant, make prior arrangements and confirm that allergen-free meals are available. Let parents/guardians know the name of the restaurant in advance.
Have an emergency plan in place ahead of time. To start, bring along an emergency kit that includes the following:
- First aid items (bandages, ice packs, sick bags, antiseptic wipes, etc.)
- Roster of students and chaperones along with emergency contact details
- Name and location of nearest emergency room
- List of important phone numbers: Poison Control (1-800-222-1222); Diocese of Lafayette Office of Risk Management
- Bottled water
Establish ahead of time which staff member will call a parent/guardian in event a child is sick or injured. Be sure in advance that at least one staff member is free after the event in case a parent/guardian arrives late for pickup. Identify which staff members/volunteers know first aid and CPR.
Please note: these are general guidelines only; depending on the nature of the activity or trip, you may need to take additional precautions.