Van Cleve students’ trip to D.C. in limbo


By Melanie Yingst - myingst@aimmediamidwest.com



TROY — Troy City Schools have warned parents of Van Cleve sixth graders that the students’ annual trip to Washington, D.C. might not come to fruition.

According to news reports in the Cleveland area, at least six school districts have had to cancel or make alternate plans after Discovery Tours, the vendor in charge of the trip, failed to book hotels or make contact with the school districts in the past several weeks.

The Van Cleve sixth grade trip is scheduled for May 20-26. The cost of the trip was $860 per student. Approximately 192 students and 58 chaperones were prepared to go on the trip with approximately $215,000 invested in the trip. Parents made direct payments to the Discovery Tour company, not to the district, for the trip.

According to Superintendent Eric Herman, the school district has filed a formal complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. According to a press release from the attorney general’s office, more than 170 complaints have been generated concerning Discovery Tours between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning.

“Like many schools and families, we are very concerned about what’s happening with Discovery Tours and we want answers. As we gather information, I want Ohioans to know that this is a priority for my office, and we will do everything we can to assist. We want to hear from Ohioans who have used this company,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement issued by his office.

The state’s Consumer Protection Section is reaching out to potentially affected school districts and gathering information from consumers. Affected consumers are encouraged to file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Herman said the school district is still trying to reach Discovery Tours, but has not successfully made contact with them in recent weeks. Herman said he is aware that the students and chaperones’ hotels have not been booked by the company at this time.

Herman said the district has used the company in the past five years. He said Troy City Schools sent a notice home with students to give to parents, made a One Call Now and will mail a letter to the parents as well.

Herman said they will continue to pursue answers and will update parents as soon as possible if the trip is canceled.

Amanda Gibson’s 12-year-old daughter Allana and husband DeWayne Williams had planned on taking the trip in the next two weeks.

Gibson said while she knows if the trip is canceled her daughter will still visit the D.C. area, she’s more concerned about the students who are less fortunate.

“Some of these children will never, ever get this experience again. If they earned that money, at the very least they should be entitled to the money they earned and maybe their parent can take them to some other learning experience … what are we teaching our children? That is OK for someone to steal?” said Gibson, who was also unhappy the children learned of the situation during the school day on Friday.

According to the video posted online on the Van Cleve website, a representative from the tour company held a presentation regarding the details of the class trip. The video did not disclose the name of the person giving the presentation.

According to the video, the school did not collect the funds directly and parents made payments for the trip online directly to the company, according to a representative. The payments were broken up into three payments, with the amount due in full by March 16. The company also collected money raised by the school’s various fundraisers for the students.

The representative also touted the company’s travel insurance, claiming the trip was “your trip is fully refundable up to 60 days prior to departure.” The representative claimed after March 17, “Everything is paid in full.”

In Mentor, Madeira Middle School canceled its eighth-graders trip on Friday after the company reportedly failed to book its hotels. According to WCPO, the company paid approximately $232,500 for 500 students to go to D.C. School officials canceled the night before the students were supposed to leave.

In the May 4 letter to parents, Principal Matt Siefring apologized to parents and urged them to file a complaint against Discovery Tours. The Office of Consumer Complaints can be reached at 1-800-282-0515. The Attorney General’s Office suggests parents reach out to their credit card company, if appropriate, and determine other possible options for restitution. A full excerpt of the letter can be viewed online at www.tdn-net.com

By Melanie Yingst

myingst@aimmediamidwest.com