Sixth-grade students in Moorpark will have the opportunity again this year to spend a week in the wilderness of Santa Barbara County learning about natural history and self-reliance.
The board of the Moorpark Unified School District has approved renewing its contract with the Santa Barbara County office of education, which runs the 34-year-old Outdoor School, located at Lake Cachuma northeast of Santa Barbara.
Although Moorpark has sent students to the program for 16 years, board members didn't approve the new contract until they were satisfied that students who couldn't afford the $180 course fee would still get to attend.
District staff assured the board that Chaparral Middle School officials use money from donations and fund-raisers to pay all or part of the cost for students who can't pay.
Some students still don't attend, however. Sometimes parents don't think their children need the experience, said Mary Alice Reyburn, Chaparral's coordinator for the Outdoor School Program.
About 360 of Chaparral's 470 sixth-grade students are expected to attend this year. Students who don't go keep their regular class schedule.
Reyburn and other district officials praised the Outdoor School program.
"It's a really neat opportunity for them to become a little more self-reliant, build their confidence and to have an appreciation for nature," said Assistant Supt. Frank DePasquale. "For a lot of them, it's the first time they've been away without their parents."
Students attend the school for five-day periods, from Monday through Friday.