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Houlton Middle/High School cancels Spain trip to amidst new coronavirus fears

Initial test results show that no Mainers have tested positive for the coronavirus as of 1 p.m. Tuesday. For the latest coronavirus news, click here.

HOULTON, Maine — A school trip that has been two years in the making at Houlton Middle/High School has been canceled amidst fears that COVID-19 may pose a substantial risk to students. 

In a letter dated March 11 being sent out to parents on Wednesday, the school said that the decision was made after monitoring current events in Spain, such as the recent closing of schools and restrictions on group gatherings. 

“RSU 29 recognizes the importance of educational opportunities involving travel abroad and will continue our long history of supporting such experiences in the future,” the letter said. “At this time, it is in the best interest of our students, families and communities to reschedule this trip to April of 2021.”

Parents whose children were planning on going on the trip, which included locations such as Barcelona, Valencia and Seville, may choose to have their children rescheduled for next April or to receive a future travel voucher. 

“It is our intent to take the trip next year as a reschedule,” said Ellen Halliday, the superintendent for the RSU 29 school district. “We have one student who is a senior. The others would be able to take the trip in 2021 if they so wanted. Currently it is my understanding that our senior can receive a future travel voucher, which could be used or perhaps sold to another student who might like to be included in the 2021 trip.”

While the trip is sanctioned by the school, the parents have been working directly with the travel company supplying the trip, EF Educational Tours, regarding all of the paperwork, travel insurance, contracts and payments.

Last week, EF extended its days-before-departure policy, allowing school groups to rebook, reschedule or receive a travel voucher. EF will also be available to help families with options, which may include a refund, according to Halliday. 

Schools and other places across the country have taken several preemptive measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. Amherst College and Princeton University have announced that they will be switching to online classes after the spring break. In the city of New Rochelle in New York’s Westchester County, a “containment area” zone has been announced, with schools in the designated area to be shut down in hopes of preventing the spread of the virus.  

With more than 1600 cases and 35 deaths, Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe by the coronavirus, but behind that of the hardest-hit country, Italy, which announced it was on a nationwide quarantine

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