For more than a decade, fifth-graders at Ames School in Riverside have looked forward to a pool party during the final week of the schoolyear. They could have one again this year, but it won’t be during the school day as it has been in the past.

Last month, Riverside Elementary School District 96 Interim Superintendent Patrick Patt told the Ames PTA that they could not have the pool party during the school day. 

Patt and co-interim Superintendent Griff Powell had concerns about liability and safety involving the party, which traditionally has been held at the Riverside Swim Club and was paid for by the Ames PTA and the parents of fifth-graders.

“To me it was potentially a dangerous situation,” Patt said. “They can tell me they’ve been doing it for 25 years and nothing has happened, but I could not live with that happening while I would be able to make a decision to say no, it’s not going to fly this year.”

Patt said that both he and Powell have in their long careers experienced tragedies during field trips, and they want to keep risk to a minimum.

“We have seen things, and if you can keep those things from happening in any way, shape or form you try to do that,” Patt said. “If fifth-graders from Ames walked to the pool and something had happened to one of the children there, I’d really have a hard time living with that. 

“So this was one of the ways that we were trying to be as protective as possible. We want to do whatever we can for kids, but I want to make it safe also.”

In the past Ames fifth-graders, accompanied by teachers and a few parents, have walked from their school to the Riverside Swim Club, a distance of a little over a mile. 

Patt also said no other school in the district has a pool party during the school day. Under former Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis and continuing under Patt and Powell, there has been an effort to standardize field trips and other activities among the four elementary schools in the district. 

Administrators have been uncomfortable that individual school PTAs fund many field trips and other special activities. Administrators feel that a child’s experience in school shouldn’t depend on which school the child happens to attend.

Many Ames parents and fifth-graders are not happy with the decision to not allow the pool party to take place during the school hours, ending the tradition and a fun way for kids to end their elementary school careers.

“I think it’s ridiculous that the interim superintendents have decided this,” said Liz Buoscio, the mother of an Ames fifth-grader. “It’s been a long-standing tradition for Ames fifth-graders to have this party, and to take that away is disappointing for both the kids and the parents.” 

The Ames PTA may host a pool party for Ames fifth-graders next year, outside of school hours.

Patt said that he had no problem with that solution or with coming up with other ways to celebrate the end of the school year.

“What I told them was there’s nothing saying that we can’t come up with a great activity for those fifth-graders during the day, and I’m more than happy to let the PTA sponsor an after-school pool party if that’s what they want to do,” Patt said.