Alternative trips were canceled along with winter varsity sports events and the Ecology class expeditions, as confirmed in an email from Principal Devan Ganeshananthan to High School parents and families Feb. 8.
Alternatives were set to take place March 28-31, and since their creation in 1978, the trips have given students the opportunity for international travel. However, trips in 2022 were going to take place exclusively inside the U.K. due to the unpredictability of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Adnan Bseisu (’22) said the cancellation of Alternative trips is even more disappointing as it was his final opportunity to travel with the school.
“It’s a bit frustrating because, as a senior, it’s my last year,” he said. “I haven’t been able to go for two years. My first and only Alternatives were in ninth grade, and I think I’ve only developed a lot more friendships since then. It would have been much more fun.”
According to Director of Student Life James Perry, the main reason for the cancellations was the COVID-19 risk for both students and faculty involved in overnight trips.
“Ultimately, it was just not being able to come up with an appropriate plan to take care of kids all across even just the U.K. if people were getting sick,” he said.
World Languages and Cultures Teacher Whitney Nuchereno said due to tension surrounding school trips, she was not shocked that the administration decided to cancel Alternative trips.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” she said. “I knew it was coming. Actually, it’s not because I was given any prior information – I was just looking at numbers and knew they were talking continuously about trips.”
Grade 12 students involved in the robotics program, however, will still have the opportunity to compete at the Orlando Regional tournament in Florida March 10-12. Perry said this trip is still allowed to go ahead since live participation in the tournament is “the only real experience that [robotics] kids can get.”
Perry said the administration had to make the decision to cancel the majority of travel at this point in time in particular, before more payments were due.
As a result of shifting COVID-19 travel restrictions, Perry said it was necessary to make a “financially responsible decision” because money is owed “very, very soon.”
Nuchereno said the timing of the cancellation announcement this week was not ideal because many teachers are focused on ongoing parent-student-teacher conferences.
“We got the news Monday night, and, quite frankly, the timing of it wasn’t phenomenal because we have conferences this week,” she said. “So a lot of us are stressed out enough trying to get all of our conferences done.”
Despite the fact that canceling Alternative trips avoids wasting more of the designated budget, Perry said money has already been lost. However, he said a “good, significant portion” of the remaining money will go toward the bonding activities that will take place in London during the original Alternatives week.
“We will probably lose a certain percent of our budget for deposits that we don’t follow through with,” he said. “We understand that, but we will spend most of the remaining money on that week.”
Nuchereno said she wished the faculty would have been more involved in deciding what would take place instead of the trips.
“I feel like they rushed to make an alternate decision as to how to use those days, and I think that shouldn’t be a decision that is made by just a small group of people,” she said. “The faculty, we had a lot of really great insight that could have been used to make those days something special.”
After going to Greece during Alternatives in his Grade 9 year, Bseisu said not being able to have another opportunity to travel with his fellow students is disheartening.
In addition, Bseisu said the experience helped him make new friends in the High School, which is one of the main goals of Alternatives.
“I only had one other freshman on my trip, so we were sort of forced to like meet people in different grades,” he said. “The true purpose of Alternatives is to get to meet people that you don’t normally interact with and to make friends in different grade levels.”
Nuchereno said she empathizes with Grade 12 students who will not have any more chances to go on Alternative trips, especially because COVID-19 has made the past few years very difficult for them.
“I feel bad because I think seniors in the last couple years have had the short end of the stick in a lot of ways,” she said. “I do feel bad for them overall, especially if their Alternative was something they wanted to do.”
Prior to trips being canceled, Bseisu said he was excited to room with other classmates, which is an experience students usually do not have outside of Alternatives week.
“I was just most looking forward to spending some overnight time, like with my friends and the people in my Alternative group,” he said. “I was just looking forward to spending some time, over four or five nights, with people from my school who I may not see again.”
Nuchereno said she doubts Alternatives will run normally for the next couple of years.
“One thing I’ve learned about ASL during my 10 years is never to be surprised by anything,” she said. “I think if they do it next year, they’re going to keep it in the U.K. I can’t imagine any international travel for at least another academic year.”