Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School students who were supposed to go to Disney World in March are finally getting most of their money back for the canceled trip.
Superintendent Scott Wakeley said District 307 negotiated with Bob Rogers Travel Agency and the company has agreed to refund parents 95 percent of their out-of-pocket expenses.
Parents will not receive fundraised money back; however, parents who have freshman or sophomore students planning to attend the next trip in 2022 will get a credit from the school for 95 percent of their fundraised money to pay for that trip.
“There will be some work that needs to be done in the music department over the next two years in order to make that happen, but we figured that was the only right thing to do,” Wakeley said.
The BBCHS music department embarks on the trip once every few years so that students in band and choir will have the chance to go to Disney once in their high school career.
About 300 students planned to take the trip this year.
BBCHS leadership held out hope that the trip would go on as planned despite panic over coronavirus, as Florida was entertaining tourists and Disney was still hosting school trips until the park announced its temporary closure in mid March.
The trip was scheduled for the end of March during spring break. Even before it was officially canceled, some parents were pulling their students out over fear of the virus.
Wakeley said parents were frustrated and wanted to know how much they would be refunded and who would pay them back. Most did not purchase travel insurance.
“Nobody takes insurance,” he said. “They think, ‘What are the chances?’”
The issue, however, was that the company had already expended the money.
“Everybody had been paid,” Wakeley said. “So then it’s just a matter of, OK, how much money can you get back?”
He said the company originally stated that it would use fundraised money to pay everyone back 95 percent.
But parents who fundraised were upset their money would be paying those who didn’t raise funds at all. Others suggested that all of their fundraised money should come back to them.
“We understood; the tricky part was everybody wanted what they wanted,” Wakeley said. “So we were left kind of in the middle, really not having any authority to do anything.”
School Board President Justin Caldwell said his daughter was planning to attend the trip, and he could understand where parents’ frustrations were coming from. He said the company was inconsistent and untimely in some of its email communications, likely because it had many schools in the same situation to deal with.
“When you hear 95 [percent] that’s what sticks with people,” Caldwell said. “You don’t get to go back two weeks later and say you’re getting 70 percent of your money back.”
Wakeley said the school would look into options to prevent conflict in the future, such as building travel insurance into the cost of the trip or being more hands-off with fundraising efforts.