Some middle-school trips in limbo due to government shutdown

After already cutting short the ninth grade trip to San Francisco, the government shutdown is likely to also affect the upcoming middle-school class trips.

The ninth graders took off on Oct. 1—the same day of the shutdown—without knowing whether their trip would be impacted.

But the ripple effects of the shutdown soon became evident when they arrived at their first destination—the ropes course at Fort Miley in San Francisco—and found it closed.

“There were police officers blocking the entrance,” chaperone Patricia Portillo said. “We weren’t aware of that land being federal property.”

But Portillo said the officers were generous and lenient with them, allowing the students into the park to do the rope course, which is run by a non-federal organization. Others trying to enter the park, however, were turned away.

Portillo and the other chaperones were also notified at the rope course by a call from Sea Trek (the company that organized the trip) that the Marin Headlands Hostel, a concessioner of National Park Services, could let the ninth graders stay only two instead of the planned three nights.

“By then we realized that we weren’t sure how else (this shutdown) was going to impact us, that it was a little more serious than we thought,” Portillo said.

But besides not being able to visit the Nike Missile Site in San Francisco and stay the last night on Thursday, the trip went according to schedule. The students still kayaked, hiked and went to museums and the beach.

“I feel like the shutdown didn’t affect the trip that much; it was a fun trip,” Portillo said.

And freshman Kaeleigh Valverde agrees. “We still did a lot of things, and I still think we had fun,” Valverde said. “Some of us were even kind of happy to come back early because we missed our family.”

But the seventh- and eighth-grade trips might see bigger changes.

The middle-school trips are from Oct. 20-24. (The sixth grade trip to Redwood Glen in Santa Cruz will be completely unaffected.)

The seventh grade trip to Yosemite National Park, however, is currently in question. The trip takes place entirely in the national park, which is closed.

According to trip coordinators Sandy Lyon and Jason Kreps, the school has not decided what’s happening to the trip.

“As far as we know, we’re going,” Kreps said. “We’re hoping it opens.”

Kreps said the company that helped plan the trip, NatureBridge, has contacted the people at Yosemite. The school is also looking for alternative programs and places for the trip in case the closure continues, but so far nothing has been decided, and the school won’t hear back from NatureBridge until next Thursday.

If no places can accommodate the seventh graders in time, Lyon said the school might try to run the trip itself, though then the trip might not be as long.

“Filling five days is a lot to do, and most of our staff is gone that week on the other trips,” Lyon said.

“It won’t be nearly as much fun as going to Yosemite, but it’s something.”

The eighth-grade trip, which takes students to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, will also be affected if the shutdown continues.

Many destinations planned for the trip, such as the Smithsonian museums, Ford’s Theater, the Capitol, the Holocaust Museum, and several monuments in D.C, will be closed.

But according to Lyon, WorldStrides, the company in charge, has already come up with a contingent plan.

Besides going to privately run museums, the eighth graders might travel to Virginia, where they’d visit president Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello, the University of Virginia, Ashlawn Highland and the Civil War battlefield in Manassas—places for which WorldStrides would normally charge extra to visit.

“Our trip to D.C. is definitely happening, (though) it may not look like the itinerary we have right now,” Lyon said.

“Again, it depends on the government.”



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