The gridlock in Washington, D.C. that has brought about the shutdown of the federal government has affected people of all walks of life, including a group of 5th grade students from Clearfield, McBrayer, Rodburn, and Tilden Hogge Elementary Schools. These 56 fifth graders, their parents and grandparents, and Genny Jenkins, Rowan County School’s gifted education coordinator, have been making plans for the past year for the annual Washington, D.C. trip, taken each year during the week of the district’s fall break. Those plans hit a major stumbling block at the news of the government shutdown.
The annual trip, with support from donors such as the Morehead Optimist Club and the American Legion Post No. 126, affords the 5th grade students the opportunity to see firsthand some of the sites and museums that they have studied in their social studies classes. Working with Thomas Tours, Mrs. Jenkins had arranged for the students to visit the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Due to the shutdown of the federal government and the closure of many of the museums and memorials in Washington, D.C., changes had to be made to this year’s trip to Washington, D.C., with an alternate itinerary designed by both Mrs. Jenkins and the representatives of the tour company.
Rescheduling the trip would have been difficult and, according to Mrs. Jenkins, would have created a financial hardship for many of the students’ parents, many of whom had scheduled vacation time to accompany their children as trip chaperones. Rather than rescheduling, Mrs. Jenkins opted to go forward with the trip, following the alternate itinerary.
“I was afraid that the impasse in Washington would have a negative effect on our trip, but the alternate itinerary that our representatives at Thomas Tours developed for us made this a trip to remember for our students,” said Genny Jenkins.
While the students were not able to visit the Smithsonian museums, they were able to visit two sites that have never before been on the trip itinerary: the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, seeing where their money is printed, and the International Spy Museum, to get some insight into the world of espionage. In addition to the new museums, the students were able to visit George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon and lay a wreath of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. While the government shutdown caused the closure of the many of the monuments in Washington, D.C., many of the temporary barricades had been moved, allowing tourists and Rowan County Schools’ 5th graders to visit some of the monuments, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Even though the shutdown of the government prevented the students from seeing many of Washington, D.C. sites and museums, it did have one positive impact on this year’s 5th grade group. In past years when Mrs. Jenkins has taken the 5th graders to Washington, D.C. during the district’s fall break, Congress has usually been in recess, preventing the students from visiting either the House or Senate gallery. Due to the shutdown, though, the students had a rare opportunity to be seated in the Senate gallery and witness some of the debates concerning the shutdown taking place on the Senate floor.
Genny Jenkins remarked, “My goal for this trip was to bring patriotism and love of our country to my students through their experiences in Washington, D.C. Even though some of the sites that we wanted to visit were closed due to the shutdown, I believe that seeing Washington, D.C. at this time definitely had an impact on our students. They will remember exactly where they were when high school or college teachers talk to them about the government shutdown in 2013.”