While it’s common to see school buses bringing field trips to the Fort Hays State Historic Site from neighboring communities, as of late, Hays schoolchildren have been absent.

Kiwanis Club of Hays and the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau are working together to change that.

On Thursday, two fourth-grade classes totaling 43 students from Lincoln Elementary toured Fort Hays free of charge, courtesy of a generous donation from Kiwanis. All third- and fourth-grade teachers in the Hays USD 489 school district are encouraged to make arrangements for a free tour for their students by contacting the fort.

“We can’t have our local kids — the future of Hays — growing up not knowing the history of our fort,” said CVB Executive Director Melissa Dixon. “Our staff is always looking for ways we can support the fort, and in this case, it was just a matter of making a few phone calls. Then the school district helped us get the word out to each school.”

Anna Schonthaler and Lisa Kruse, fourth-grade teachers at Lincoln, were the first to sign their classes up for the field trip.

“I was really excited when I saw the email from our principal about it,” Kruse said.

Kiwanis members had worked with Fort Hays in the past to cover the admission of local elementary school students and were more than willing to pick up the partnership again.

“We have visitors from all over the world, but most of our local students have never been here,” said the site’s administrator, Tammy Younger. “We are grateful for the help of our CVB and the Kiwanis Club of Hays for their support. Our local students have a wonderful opportunity to learn the history of Fort Hays and the town they call home.”

The Fort Hays State Historic Site is located at 1472 U.S. Highway 183 Alternate and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. For tour information, contact Younger at (785) 625-6812.

Fort Hays is funded by the state through the Kansas Historical Society. The site is also supported by the Society of Friends of Historic Fort Hays.

Upcoming free events at Fort Hays include “Graveside Conversations” from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 28 and “Presenting Elizabeth Polly, the Blue Light Lady” at 2 p.m. Oct. 29.

The Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau is located in the Hays Welcome Center, 2700 Vine. For information about the CVB or community events, call (785) 628-8202 or go to www.visithays.com.