Van Cleve D.C. trip cancelled

Discovery Tours stiffs 30 schools in Ohio

By Melanie Yingst -

TROY — Troy City Schools received an official notice cancelling the Van Cleve Sixth Grade student trip on Friday.

Principal Matt Siefring received an email sent by Alfred Cipoletti, president of Discovery Tours.

“We regret to inform you that Discovery Tours Inc. has suspended its operations, effective immediately. All future trips are cancelled. Further information will be provided when available.”

Superintendent Eric Herman confirmed the trip cancellation Saturday morning. Herman said he is still investigating the incident and hoped to have more answers for parents and the community early next week.

According to News 5 Cleveland, the company offices were empty when reporters knocked on the company’s door in Mayfield Village last week. The news outlet also visited the home of the company’s owners in Richmond Heights and the vice-president’s home in Hudson and were unsuccessful in contacting them. It is estimated 25-30 school districts in Ohio have reported school trip cancellations due to the company’s misconduct. The charter company failed to make payments to the hotel and bus vendors for their trips across the state.

Herman said he was contacted by news outlets in Cleveland on Friday since Troy City Schools was one of the first districts to receive any communication from Discovery Tours personnel. According to reports, Hudson City Schools in northeast Ohio also received the same email message Friday.

Herman said the school no longer has 100 hotel rooms or buses reserved for the trip and alternate plans to send the students on the trip is unlikely at this time. Herman said he is continuing to explore alternate options such as students taking the trip when they are in junior high.

Principal Siefring posted the following message on the school’s Facebook page Friday evening.

“As we continue our investigation, we will keep you informed as additional information and developments come to light. Again, please know that Troy City Schools is exploring all possible options for the students and families of Van Cleve.”

The Van Cleve sixth grade trip was 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.

The school district has filed a formal complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. On Friday, more than 170 complaints were filed with the 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 district has used the company in the past five years. The school did not collect the funds directly and parents made payments for the trip online directly to the company. 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.

In Mentor, more than 500 eighth-grade students were notified last Tuesday their trip to D.C. was cancelled. The students were set to leave Wednesday morning. In a YouTube video, the district’s superintendent reported Discovery Tours notified the school system that they were unable to receive final confirmation for the hotel rooms, so the trip would be canceled. The hotel management informed the school “Discovery Tours was unable to meet contractual obligations.”

Discovery Tours stiffs 30 schools in Ohio

By Melanie Yingst