School board member Katrina Foley wants Newport-Mesa Unified to reallocate $200,000 from its administrative budget to help fund sixth-grade science camp programs.
"This is an example of when we need to provide supplemental funding," said Foley. "Otherwise there are several schools in Costa Mesa that won't be able to attend, and that's a disparity in the district that we can't allow."
In particular, Wilson, California, Adams and Pomona elementary schools have expressed concerns about raising the money, said Susan Astarita, assistant superintendent of secondary education.
No students will be left out, though they might not get the program they originally planned on, she said.
"We will provide an outdoor science experience," Astarita said.
Sixth-grade science camp is traditionally a voluntary and overnight outdoor trip.
Costs for it vary from school to school — about $160 to $445 per student — based on the program. Each school picks a camp for its specific needs, while school organizations help raise funds to make the camps happen.
Districtwide, it would cost $422,000 to send every sixth-grader this year.
Foley said she wants the district to start paying half of the costs for all district schools by cutting the "fat" out of the budget — namely the district's catering, travel and conference expenses, and dues and membership costs.
In its 2011-12 budget, the district, excluding money for each school site, allocated $85,680 in catering and campus catering, $97,422 in dues and membership, and $221,052 for travel and conferences.
The school board majority shot down Foley's motion for its next agenda on Oct. 25 to have a discussion and vote on the fund reallocation, but did agree to just discuss it.
School board member Martha Fluor said the board members don't have enough information yet, especially on how big a shortfall some schools are facing.
"We just need to have a real clear sense of what is [Foley's] perceived shortfall, because we don't have a clear sense," she said.
The board is scheduled to get more detailed information on the schools' budget shortfalls during its Oct. 25 meeting.
Wilson won't be attending its usual camp, which was only possible through funding from the camp, said Principal Julie Perron, adding that the school is surveying parents on what alternative outdoor experience they want.
Adams also won't be attending its normal camp, which is too expensive without the help of the anonymous donor who withdrew support this year, said Principal Gabe Del Real.
Del Real is looking into a shorter outdoor experience this year.
Pomona has raised about $3,000 so far and is still up in the air about what science experience the students will have, said Principal Megan Brown.
The school, which had its first sixth-grade class last year, was also receiving help from the same anonymous donor and would need to raise $18,549 for all its students to attend the planned camp.
California Elementary is still totaling how much was raised, but it is looking positive, said Principal Matt Broesamle.