McKeever uses student teachers and there has been a “decline” in the quality of the student teachers in recent years, Stephens said, while Kon-O-Kwee has a paid, professional teaching staff.
It costs $30,000 for McKeever’s five-day program; the cost traditionally has been split between the school, the Hermitage Parent-Teacher Organization and parents. Kon-O-Kwee charges $15,000 for three days.
Kon-O-Kwee can house the entire class and has separate male and female housing, which is not available at McKeever, and can handle individual student nutritional needs, Stephens said.
There also is a negative social aspect at McKeever in that some students are separated from their friends, while others get homesick being away from home for five days and four nights, he said. Kon-O-Kwee offers a three-day program with two overnights, Stephens said. Kon-O-Kwee also offers team-building activities that are in line with the school district’s anti-bullying efforts, Stephens said.
“The more you know about someone the less likely you are to harm them,” said Kon-O-Kwee Director of Camping Services Tim Murphy, who attended the meeting.
School board member Rob Gelesky, a West Middlesex Area School District teacher, said he has attended Kon-O-Kwee a number of times with fifth-grade students and endorsed the change.
“Our kids love Camp Kon-O-Kwee,” Gelesky said. “It is the best camp going.”
Trosch said the McKeever Experience is a long-standing tradition for Hermitage students, and he thanked the McKeever staff for “all their years of dedicated service as well as the shared knowledge of environmental education that they have provided to our students.”
“Hopefully, we’ll create a new tradition,” Trosch said.
Bires said he met with Trosch, Stephens and the sixth-grade teachers and they expressed no qualms with the curriculum, McKeever’s facilities or the cost. Their only beef was with the length of the program, he said.