Coronavirus concerns ground March break travel dreams for students in the north
Schools working on re-scheduling trips, and obtaining refunds for travel expenses
School trips are often the highlight of a student's year but concerns about the coronavirus are quashing some of those highly-anticipated travel plans among students across academic levels in the northeast.
A number of upcoming international trips planned for students have been cancelled at the high school, and post-secondary levels.
In Sudbury's French Catholic school board, students from five different high schools have been looking forward to getting away to destinations including France, Austria, Greece and Italy.
But this week the board decided to cancel all international trips, amid concerns about COVID-19.
Paul de la Riva speaks for the board, and says parents were worried.
"Many parents had voiced concerns about the trips. They were wondering whether this was a good time to travel … for many it was a sign of relief," he says.
De la Riva says he hopes many of the trips will simply be postponed and the board is working to reimburse Grade 12 student who have paid for flights.
It's a similar scenario playing out at Rainbow District Schools.
Norm Blaseg is the director of education for the Rainbow District School Board, which has cancelled four March break trips to Europe.
He says about a hundred students are affected.
Blaseg says the destinations included Italy where the viral outbreak has been a serious concern, and the risk of even one person contracting the virus was too much of a risk.
"The potential for the ripple effects are huge," he says. "I mean when you think about quarantines, you think about what it does if they were to come back into our country. Not to mention their own health."
Blaseg says everyone is disappointed but most understand these are trying times.
He says the board is still mulling over what to do about trips planned later this year for the United States and Costa Rica.
Even university students are scrambling at the last minute to try to recoup travel costs.
At Laurentian University, a trip to Italy in June has been cancelled.
English Professor Sylvia Hunt says she was planning to take students to Florence for three weeks to teach about history and Renaissance literature, incorporating the city's architecture, culture and art.
Hunt is predicting the outbreak will be over by the trip's planned departure date of June, but she can't risk her students' investment in travel expenses.
"It was a really hard decision. It was a ways off, and I'm convinced, by then, this virus outbreak will be over, I'm pretty sure that by then it will have run its course and it will be fine," she said. "But for my students, the cost of the trip, they could only get back their money, 100 percent, if we made a decision by this week. We can't risk their health. There were too many contingencies of, if there was still a health issue in the north of Italy, suppose the airline, the flight home was cancelled."
A number of other school boards throughout the northeast say they're also cancelling upcoming trips.
They include the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board and Conseil scolaire catholique de district des Grandes Rivières
The Superior Catholic District School Board has cancelled a summer trip to Thailand.
with files from Sarah MacMillan