The phones were ringing off the hook with questions at the Blount County Schools Central Office the morning of Dec. 4 when 11 school buses left Lanier Elementary School with a police escort.
Everyone from the school, including students, teachers, staff and administrators were traveling to the Museum of Appalachia in Norris.
“Oh my gosh, it was great. We had a police escort all the way up there,” principal Dr. Teresa Robinson said. “The kids loved that, and I think that caused a stir. The phones were ringing off the hook at Central Office. We had 11 buses and a police escort all the way. I think we kind of shook things up.”
The field trip was made possible by two grants - one from the Tennessee Arts Commission and one from Target department store. Teacher Susan Cupp completed the paperwork for the $2,000 Target grant. After the school won the $3,000 TAC grant, Robinson opted to use the funds for a school-wide field trip to the Museum of Appalachia.
Blount County Schools director Rob Britt said he was proud of the teachers for finding the funding for the trip. “It’s a tribute to Teresa and the teachers and whole staff that they’ve taken it upon themselves to organize and plan and go out and beat the bushes to find funding to do that for those students,” Britt said. “It’s tremendous. I’m proud of them.”
Travelling to the museum was a great learning experience for the students, said Britt. “It was something they couldn’t get in classroom,” he said. “It was one of those ‘You have to be there’ experiences.”
Robinson said the students were excited the morning of the trip as they were loading onto the buses. “It was very well organized. I didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
School board member Brad Long coordinated the buses. There were coolers with each teacher’s name on them filled with lunches prepared by the cafeteria staff, who also went on the field trip. The custodians and cafeteria staff helped load the coolers onto one bus. “It went really well. Each class had a bus to ride, and we pulled off with the blue lights flashing on the cruisers,” Robinson said.
A total of 450 students went on the field trip. With teachers, administrators, staff, custodians and cafeteria workers, there were a total of 517 people riding the buses. Chief Deputy Ron Dunn and Sgt. Preston “Cubby” Pearson with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office also made the trip.
“The City of Maryville police stopped traffic, and the Alcoa police stopped traffic when we went through Alcoa,” the principal said. “The worst thing of the day was we were 15 minutes late getting there, but when we unloaded, the museum staff was ready for us.”
Each class had an itinerary of where they had to be during the tour, and Robinson stayed on the buses and coordinated lunches for each class.
To make it more affordable for the parents, the museum let any parent who joined the group in for $10 per person instead of the regular $14.95 rate. “They were having a food drive. If parents brought cans of food, the museum would let them in for $10,” Robinson said. “We left here with a trunk-load of canned goods.”
When parents were added in, there were approximately 800 people representing Lanier Elementary School at the museum. “We pretty much took over the museum, and the kids had a ball,” she said.
The principal said the trip made an impression on the students. “I’ve heard kids say a couple of things that they saw at the museum that they recognize at their grandparent’s houses now,” she said.
Robinson said teachers are already talking about applying for more grants to fund more trips like the one they took to the Museum of Appalachia. “It’s definitely something we’d like to do again. They’re ready to go,” she said.