Jittery school chiefs rethink trips to D.C.
Parents have been expressing concerns about safety.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
West Branch Junior High School pupils who had planned to see the nation's capital firsthand this year will have to settle for the state capital instead.
The teacher directing the spring trip has altered plans due to terror alerts coming out of Washington, D.C., said Superintendent Louis A. Ramunno. Instead of going to D.C., pupils will "see the sights within the state," Ramunno said.
A concern for safety is causing school districts across the Mahoning Valley to reconsider plans for similar trips.
Dr. David Brobeck, Salem superintendent, said seventh- and eighth-grade pupils will spend spring break in Toronto and Niagara Falls.
Toronto was chosen, he said, "because it's not Washington, D.C."
"I think we have to be aware of parents concerns and what they want," he said. If Washington, D.C., had been the destination, Brobeck said, he suspects fewer kids would have gone.
Austintown Superintendent Richard Denamen said school board members this week approved a one-day Fitch High School English class trip to Washington, D.C., for March, and a five-day boys basketball team trip to Florida, planned for April.
The approval, Denamen said, is tentative. With the federal government last week declaring the nation on high alert for possible terror attacks, Denamen said there are concerns. If the nation remains in high alert or moves to top alert, the trips will be canceled.
The high level orange alert is the second-highest in the government's five-point, color-coded scale that would be topped only by a red alert meaning an attack is imminent or under way.
When considering trip cancellations, cost issues rise to the surface. Trips are not funded by school districts and pupils must raise money themselves, often leaving part of the bill for parents.
In Canfield, money for an eighth-grade Washington, D.C., trip was due Wednesday and Superintendent Dante Zambrini received two calls from concerned parents. Also in Canfield, high schoolers are planning an April trip to Spain.
Zambrini said administrators and board members are monitoring risk.
"We're waiting to see what will occur," Zambrini said.
If an out-of-state trip is canceled, he said, an alternate in-state trip could be planned, as was done in the spring of 2002 after the Sept. 11 attack. If there is a new terror attack, no trips would be allowed this year.
Zambrini said the terror threat does not seem to be swaying parents. After three parent meetings on the Spain trip, no one canceled but one additional pupil signed up.
Bill Mullane, principal at Warren Harding High School, said students on the robotics team will make trips to Pittsburgh, Houston and Toronto. Also, he and a group of students and teachers are planning a spring break trip to Spain.
Concerns haven't increased in recent days, he said.