Travel company offers full refund on canceled school trips after parent outrage

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/31/2020 5:40:16 PM

Parents in the Mascenic and ConVal Regional School Districts have been offered full refunds of the money paid into their eighth-graders’ trip to Washington D.C., a victory after residents were initially offered only a 15 percent reimbursement.

Best of Times Travel Agency in Laconia was originally set to provide Washington D.C. tours for both districts’ middle schools in . However, when the coronavirus hit, non-essential travel was limited, and schools are scheduled to continue meeting only virtually through May 4.

Originally, according to the districts, Best of Times offered them two solutions: They could reschedule the trip for a later date, at any point between now and July of 2021, and have their original tour at the original price. For districts that canceled the trip totally, Best of Times initially offered a 15 percent reimbursement, including for those who purchased travel insurance, which does not include coverage for pandemics.

Parents in both districts were outraged, and many began calling the travel company, which Monday said it would fully reimburse both trips, which have been officially canceled.

“If the trip is not rescheduled, the notion of 15 percent is just unrealistic,” said parent Annie Pelkey of New Ipswich. “At this time, companies have shut down, there are many people not working right now, because of corona. They may need that money right now to sustain during all of this.”

“For us, and for a lot of parents, it wasn’t easy to come up with the money for the trip in the first place,” Lisa Borges of Sharon said. “My son even contributed from his own money.”

Mascenic Superintendent Chris Martin and South Meadow School Principal Anne O’Bryant both said they had been working with the company trying to negotiate a better offer for parents. Mascenic was to send 55 children on the trip, as was South Meadow. Each student paid about $900-$1,000 to secure a spot.

Kari Swett Lowe of New Ipswich said she contacted the bus company and hotels the students on the Mascenic trip were to stay at, and learned the deposits for the Boynton Middle School trip had been returned. She said given the circumstances, a full refund was in order.

She said she was relieved Monday when she learned the Mascenic School District was also going to receive a full reimbursement, even if it means officially canceling the D.C. trip.

South Meadow School Principal Anne O’Bryant said the district had been working with the company towards a more complete refund. She said she didn’t see a feasible way to take advantage of the option to reschedule the trip. The trip is built into the eighth-grade curriculum, she said, and students spend the year studying subjects related to their trip. She said at this point, the school did not plan to reschedule the trip. However, the district wasn’t satisfied with the original offer of a 15 percent reimbursement.

O’Bryant said Best of  Times was being unrespon sive to the district, though in a letter to the district Monday, the company claims the reverse. According to the letter, the company complied with a request from the district to put into writing a statement an offer to host the trip at another time and to keep working with the district on a possible refund. However, the letter alleges that after that date – March 24 – the district didn’t contact them again after that time, and said the company began to get calls emails and social media posts from parents which it said were “seemingly meant to harass our company.”

The letter confirms the ConVal School District will receive full refunds on the program, including trip insurance payments within the next 7-10 business days.

While we have not been able to recover all of the financial expenditures that were made on your behalf we have received enough commitments from our suppliers to issue families a full refund on the program. While we may not be under a legal obligation to provide a full refund to families, given these trying times and the impact the Coronavirus is having on all of us, we feel it is the proper and moral thing to do,” the letter reads.

The Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School also takes heritage trips in the spring which have been disrupted by travel restrictions. The distict has not yet canceled the eighth-grade trip to Washington D.C. or the seventh-grade trip New England tour. The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District booked both trips through Takodah YMCA, and have arranged new trip dates in May, according to district Communications Coordinator Nicholas Handy. If either trip is canceled, the district expects to receive a full refund.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.




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