Schools rethink spring travel
The Iolani School orchestra was to leave for China on Thursday.
Students would have performed at the Great Wall, at Ji Tong University before 2,000 people, and worked with the Beijing and Xian Conservatories of Music.
But the threat of war and warnings of a mysterious respiratory illness originating in Asia caused Iolani officials yesterday to delay their trip indefinitely.
With spring break scheduled for next week and an Iraq war possible at any moment, parents, students and educators across Hawai'i are thinking twice about long-planned school trips to the Mainland and foreign destinations.
At Iolani, officials are working with their travel company to try to reschedule the China trip or secure refunds for families. But spring-break trips to the Mainland still are on: a college tour to Boston, Maine and New York will happen as scheduled, while the track team will travel to Seattle next week.
"The safety and welfare of our students is the top priority," said Cathy Lee Chong, spokeswoman for Iolani School. "Parents were concerned. There's so many unknowns right now."
If a war starts, Kamehameha Schools will cancel any international travel outright. Spring-break trips to the Mainland, including those to the Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and Washington, D.C., are being re-evaluated. But interisland travel is fine, said spokesman Kekoa Paulsen.
The state's public school system asked principals to evaluate field-trip plans, but has not asked schools to cancel trips.
After months of planning and fund-raising, the 'Aiea High School band still plans to leave Monday for a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Michael Tokioka, principal at 'Aiea High School, said parents support continuing the trip. "Unless we get notification from the department saying we can't go or shouldn't go, the kids will be traveling," Tokioka said. "The parents are the ones that have really pushed it. They've discussed it a whole lot and they don't feel a need to cancel the trip."
At Punahou, spokeswoman Bonnie Judd said officials "are sort of reviewing things case by case and country by country, and being observant of what is going on."
The school, and its Wo International Center, have a number of trips planned, including summer study programs in France, Spain and Japan, a Latin class trip by the middle school to Italy and Greece, and a Fiji summer school trip, in addition to Mainland space camp and college tour excursions, she said.
Star of the Sea School had advised parents of 32 children scheduled for a Washington, D.C., trip to commit to the trip or withdraw by Feb. 21, saying the school would cancel or postpone the trip if the numbers fell too low.
But the school did not have to cancel the trip.
Peter Uehara, Department of Education area superintendent for schools in the Kaimuki-Kalani complex, said principals have given parents the right to withdraw their children from trips. Some groups have planned trips to Washington, D.C., and have made nonrefundable deposits
"The position we are holding here at the district is that it is a case-by-case decision by the schools," Uehara said. "We are not restricting travel at this point."
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