Just a week before the annual Spanish and French trips to Valencia and Paris were meant to take place, it was announced by Head of School Coreen Hester that the Paris trip would be cancelled.
The trip, which was scheduled to take place from April 13 to April 16, was cancelled after the security department at the US Embassy and other external security offices advised the school not to take any non-essential student travelers to either Paris or Brussels. In the High School, varsity baseball and softball teams were scheduled to travel to Brussels for a tournament at the end of April. That trip has also been cancelled. The recommendation was sent following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels. “Leading up to any international trip, our security office is in close consultation with the American Embassy security department as well as external security consultants that we have,” explained Middle School principal Peter Lutkoski. “Leading up to the trips that we had going to those areas both in high school and middle school we were in even more close contact with them.”
The trips had been under close consideration following the terrorist attacks, but the decision to cancel them was not made until the recommendation was received. Despite high expectations for the trip, student safety is the number one priority for the school, so the recommendations were taken very seriously. “These are the people that we trust; they have more information than what we have, and it really felt like we needed to follow that recommendation,” said Mr. Lutkoski.
Although the French trip to Paris was cancelled, the Spanish trip to Valencia continued on as normal. “All of the international trips are looked at in the same way, but the recommendation that we received only had to do with Paris and Brussels,” said Mr. Lutkoski. “We are being more vigilant than we typically would – we have specific guidelines for the trip leaders that are passed down to the students – but all of our plans are taking place as we had expected so no major alteration to the experience that the students would have.”
Madame Laure Pothain is a French teacher and the trip leader for the Paris trip, and she is already thinking ahead to future years. “The location [of the trip] is what is key, the fact that we were going to Paris,” Madame Pothain explained. “Had we been traveling to Nice or to Bordeaux, the trip would have gone ahead, so that is something I am going to look at with the administration.”
As well as the future of the Paris trip, people were also concerned with the eighth grade trip to Normandy, France happening in the middle of May. Although the trip is close in timing with the Paris trip, Mr Lutkoski said that there have been no plans to alter or cancel the trip. “This was a very specific recommendation that we received. At this particular time we were recommended not take non essential travel to those two cities, so if the Normandy trip were to take place right now it would not have been impacted,” said Mr. Lutkoski. “The trip is planning to proceed as expected, and we will always be evaluating things on a regular basis leading up to the trip to make sure that circumstances haven’t changed, and we don’t need to make any alterations, but as of now there aren’t plans to change the Normandy trip in any way.”
With the cancellation of the trip to Paris, there are plans to compensate for the students who were meant to go. “We are working very hard to try and lift the spirits, and really the French teachers are working hard trying to see where we could have a field trip,” said Madame Pothain.
Some ideas for trips that have come up are a trip to a French cheese shop with some tasting for the students, or a trip to a restaurant, or a visit to a museum with a special tour in French. The French teachers are also planning on showing some French movies in class, or having some French speakers come speak to the students. “We are all disappointed, the students and the teachers, but now it is a question of we have to bounce back. It won’t be the same [as the trip], but there should be more details in the next few weeks,” said Madame Pothain.
The people who were affected the most by the cancellation were the actual eighth grade students meant to go on the trip. Students found out that the trip had been cancelled from the email sent by Mrs. Hester to the parents. The announcement was met with an overall disappointed reaction, and many students felt as if the trip should have gone on. Not all students were fully aware of the actual reason behind the cancellations, but those who were felt as if the school made the right decision. Knowing the process behind the cancellation may have changed opinions of those who were disappointed in the school’s decision. Eighth grade student James De Ridder explained, “When I first heard, I was really disappointed as I was really looking forward to it, but I understand the reasons for why [it had to be cancelled].”